Digital Extroverts Vulnerable To Identity Theft


Today's twenty-somethings may be the most extroverted generation in history. They chronicle their trips around the world. They fess up to personal bankruptcy. They Facebook, they tweet, they text, they talk–and talk, and talk, and talk.

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statueUnfortunately, this conversational navel-gazing could increase the risk of suffering identity theft or other financial malfeasance. Consider the recent events at microblogger Twitter, which suffered a security breach when a hacker used public data to break into an employee's email account. Hundreds of sensitive documents were exposed.

Twitter isn't the only e-snooping victim. The Federal Trade Commission recognizes the risks digital extroverts take and will soon begin enforcing what it calls “red flag” rules on banks, credit card companies, and retailers, reports the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. At root, the new rules are designed to compel those who manage credit accounts to monitor for signs an account has been cracked. Watchdogs for the terminally digital, you might say. You can check your credit report regularly to make sure nothing has gone awry, but these are reactive precautions. What about getting ahead of the curve so that thieves do not wreak havoc with your personal finance situation later on?

The Twitter hack is most telling in that it was a careful, well-designed attack according to the details TechCrunch unearthed in its interview with the hacker. “Hacker Croll,” as he has become known, spent hours researching Twitter and its employees. He found their email address. He studied their habits. He learned all he could about them. And then he used that information to open a trap door in Twitter's internal network.

Sound scary? It should, because you might be next on a hacker's hit list. Here are three ways to keep the digital party going while keeping your e-wallet safe.

1. Don't give clues to your passwords?Please repeat after me: “I will not use pets, addresses, nicknames, real names, family names, or any other information that's easily linked to me as my password.” Good, now say it again. Now go get it tattooed on your arm. Never, ever violate this rule. To do so is to tempt a hacker in the most delicious of ways to attempt to invade even the best finance software.

2. Don't give away addresses in public forums?If you want to use a social network, you'll need to supply an email address. Most digital services demand you hand over your email. Blab about your address online, and you're giving a hacker his best tool for fooling services into thinking he is you.

3. Don't discuss intimate details?There's a difference between tweeting about what you had for breakfast and disclosing the address and time for your weekly coffeehouse soiree with your fantasy football league. Besides the other members of your league, only a hacker would care.?Finally, be sure to use security software to protect your computer from viruses and spyware. In particular, beware of keyloggers that record keystrokes and then forward the data to a hacker, who can then use the findings to crack open every password-protected area of your life.

Social networks are fun, and sharing is crucial to building relationships. Just be careful what you share and where. You never know who's watching.

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