How likely are you to get hacked? Cyber security and you

Data breaches occur often, and most of us probably have been affected whether or not we're aware of it.

Posted Updated
Jane Albright
, freelance reporter
This article was written for our sponsor, MyComputerCareer.

Equifax was only the latest corporate victim to have data stolen by hackers.

The headlines have been relentless with the stories of companies under attack by hackers, what with Target, Yahoo, JP Morgan Chase and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California all falling victim.

If organizations with all their resources are victimized, what’s an individual to do?

"It's scary," said Eric Fowler, an expert on cyber security with MyComputerCareer. "Unless you're the most vigilant person, you're likely to get hacked."

It happened to him 10 years ago when his debit card was breached. Fortunately, his bank caught the fraud before any damage was done.

Fowler recommends common sense vigilance to protect your personal data, starting with strong passwords that are changed often.

"If you have a basic password, or never change your password, there's a good chance you can get hacked," he said.

Fowler also recommended not opening email links or attachments from people you don't recognize, and be wary of emails from friends when the email doesn't sound like them.

While browsing the Web, Fowler said to make sure sites are legitimate and secure by looking for the "lock" emblem in the address bar.

And while it may sound obvious, be sure not to give your social security number to anyone. Fowler pointed out he doesn't even like to give the last four numbers.

"You can be as careful as you possibly can, and it might happen to you," he said.

The breach that affected his debit card was the result of a purchase from what appeared to be the secure website of a German company. His bank detected a problem when the card was used to buy a pizza in London. Fortunately, his bank had strong fraud and security procedures in place.

The White Hats

Into this hostile digital world comes the good guys -- the cyber security specialists who work to protect data from the bad guys. They're a special breed.

"The ones who go into security become passionate," Fowler explained. "The people truly love this. They see it as a challenge."

Cyber security specialists see their role as protecting the innocent from dark forces on the Web. Or as they sometimes see themselves, they're the good guys (or gals) in the white hats against the bad guys in black hats.

Security is so fundamental to the IT world that it figures into every course taught at MyComputerCareer. The demand from business and government is for those who specialize in cyber security. The most sought certifications are the CompTIA Security+ and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

These white hat specialists beat hackers at their own game. And when something goes wrong, they have to quickly fix it with a minimum of damage.

In 2018 a new certification, CompTIA Cyber Security Analyst (CSA+), is already approved by the Navy and the Department of Defense. Veterans, in particular, will want this certification to get higher security clearance and the potential for career growth that comes with it. Most certifications take less than a year to complete.

"Security roles usually pay well, with the opportunity to advance. The more specialized you become, the more money you can potentially make," Fowler said.

The future is bright for those who want to wear the virtual white hat. Hackers and the dark Web, where criminal activity resides, will continue to wreak havoc and the good guys will need to rescue the rest of us.

Data breaches occur often, and most of us probably have been affected whether or not we’re aware of it. As the world becomes more and more networked, the more those connections can be vandalized or compromised.

"Everybody has been indirectly affected in the country -- and in the world," Fowler said. "We just need to bring more cyber security white hats into the fight."

This article was written for our sponsor, MyComputerCareer.

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