A professional computer hacker who works for several Iowa companies testing their security says as technology advances, Iowans are at greater risk for identity theft.
Pablos Holman says one primary line of defense is having good email passwords that use a variety of characters, numbers and symbols, making them much harder to hack.
“If I can get into your email, then I can go to almost any website and click on ‘I forgot my password’ and they’ll email it to you,” Holman says. “Email is kind of the gatekeeper for everything. Now, people are accessing email from their phones all the time and don’t realize that basically gives an attacker access to everything.”
Holman recommends using what’s known as a “password manager” that allows you to have a different password for each website you use. It will synchronize passwords between your work and home computer, pad and phone and stores all that information in the cloud.
Paying for gasoline using a credit card at the pump is convenient, but Holman says that could also be opening you up to a high-tech hacker.
“A newer RFID credit card, paypass cards and blink cards — it’s possible to read the credit card number off them wirelessly,” he says. “Attackers can put an extra reader next to the pump and when people come by with their cards, they just collect numbers that way.”
Holman says it may be wise to invest in an RFID-blocking wallet or to leave those cards at home and take them with you only when necessary.
Iowans should use passcodes on their smart phones, to keep them safer, longer, in case they’re stolen. He suggests another security precaution for our phones.
“I’ve been using a privacy screen protector on my phone,” he says. “It’s really cool because it makes it so whoever is near you can’t see your screen, it just looks black. If someone is looking over your shoulder as you’re texting or checking your email, the person sitting next to me can’t see my screen.”
He says 70% of mobile phone users don’t password-protect their phones. Also, 43% of Americans surveyed admit to glancing at a stranger’s mobile device. That number zooms to 66% for those between the ages of 18 and 24.