You (And Your Kids) Have Been Hacked

by Anne Middleton, on December 18th, 2015

VTech, a global supplier of children’s electronic learning products and one of the top 50 electronic global manufacturing providers, disclosed this week that their customer database had been hacked.

The stolen information data at VTech included the data of customers who download children's toys, games and books.  Most concerning was that the breach included personal information relating to children. It was reported that records belonging to 4.8 million parents and more than 200,000 children were taken.

As more devices are connected to the internet, and as companies increasingly collect personal information about their customers, such attacks are expected to increase. Last year retail giants Target and Home Depot experienced infringement into their systems and, unfortunately, this trend shows no signs of stopping.

In advance of the busy holiday shopping season, the credible professionals at Consumer Reports encourage consumers to focus on protecting their financial data and personal information.

1. Demand replacement cards. Credit and debit card account numbers are the preferred prize for hackers because they are so simple to use fraudulently. So get replacements for any cards caught in a breach immediately. Don't wait for your bank. Initiate the call yourself.

2. Check your credit card activity frequently online to see whether your card was for purchases you did not make.  Again, you must be proactive. Don't wait for your print statement to come in the mail; check the latest account activity digitally by signing up for online access to your account information

3. Be alert.  Hackers don't always get everything they need to break into your accounts, so they will typically send you e-mails or even call on the phone and pose as your bank or card issuer to try to trick you into giving up the missing pieces. Be suspicious of anyone initiating contact with you by e-mail, phone, snail-mail or in person to request private information. Also, never click on links received from unsolicited e-mails.

4. Free credit reports. Regularly monitor your credit reports and keep an eye out for fake new accounts. You can receive at least three free statements annually.

5. Change it up. Alter your password, e-mail address, and username often. This is essential for financial accounts. Also, use strong passwords to deter cyber criminals and protect yourself online.

To help prevent this evil and disruptive situation, there are several preventive actions available.

• Upgrade your software security. Do everything you can to protect your computer from hackers. Investigate products that can provide you with comprehensive, multi-faceted technology security software that protects you from viruses, spyware, adware, hackers, unwanted emails, phishing scams and identity theft. Choose a brand that you can trust, like McAfee.

• Always access the Internet from behind a firewall. A firewall adds a security layer between your PC or MAC and the Internet. It shields your information and helps prevent hackers from stealing your identity, destroying your files or using your computer to attack others. Norton’s award winning firewall defends your personal data with state-of-the-art intrusion detection and privacy protection.  It is available in an all-in-one easy-to-use program.

• Secure your wireless network. You are at risk if you access the Internet from a Wi-Fi network.  But there is a simple solution to safeguard your precious communications. Bitdefender provides additional Wi-Fi security protection and takes on the responsibilities of your personal technology body guard when you are online. Their program provides protection for your computer from spyware and phishing attempts and gives you notices of risky websites.

Regretfully, infiltration of our online information is now a fact of life. Antivirus programs are essential in maintaining the safety of your data, protecting your money and reducing the terrifying situation of a security breach.