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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

How the Experts Protect Themselves

by Neal O'Farrell on

I'm used to getting a lot of questions about security, and one of the questions I'm asked most often is "What do I do to protect myself?" It's also a question that I've answered a few times, maybe even in a blog or two.

But I never get bored with answering it. That's in part because security changes all the time, and an answer six months ago may not be so relevant today.

Before I talk about the security measures I take to protect myself, here's some background. I'm been in cyber security for thirty years, worked in all kinds of security environments, and confronted all types of hackers.

But I'm not a techie. I don't know how to fix a PC, write code, or install a network. Not to say I don't have challenges and vulnerabilities: I have fifteen email addresses, five computers, an iPhone and Blackberry. I manage more than a dozen websites, all of them security focused., and I spent 16-18 hours a day online.

There you have it. Lots of vulnerabilities, plenty of ways to trip me up, and not much PC expertise to get me out of tight spots.

For security reasons I'm not going to tell you everything I do to protect myself, but here are some of the basics:

Anti-virus and firewall software on every computer. I use a mixture of AVG (free), ZoneAlarm®, Windows Essentials (free) and a few others. I avoid Symantec and McAfee because they're beasts, and Norton upsets my computer. And of course I set all the software to automatically update definitions, and automatically run a full scan once a week.

Credit and identity monitoring. I use Identity Guard® to watch my credit reports for changes, and scour the internet for any clues my data is out there. I've been using this type of service for nearly seven years, and I treat it like insurance — I hope I never need it, but if I do, I know I'll be glad I had it. And while I can do much of the work myself, Identity Guard is the lazy man's way of covering so many bases I might otherwise forget about. The Irish have very long fingers.

ID Vault® — I've been using password managers for years as a secure and easy way to manage multiple passwords, and they're a godsend. I'm just trying out ID Vault, which takes password and login management to a much higher level. So far it's an excellent product and maybe later I'll do a complete review.

I'm a safe surfer. I don't click on anything I'm not certain about, I just delete emails that don't seem legit, and I don't let boredom or curiosity lead me to those "off the strip" websites that are often loaded with drive-by malware.

I use browser security tools. These simple tools, many of them free, will very quickly run a decent scan on any web sites in your search results, and let you know in an instant if the site is safe, unsafe, or questionable. I've tested many in the past and currently use Secure Browser from Finjan.

I'm a pain with passwords. I can't say that I obey every password rule I've ever espoused, but I do try to follow some of the bigger ones. For example, most of my passwords are very long, and very random, and usually based on a password phrase that only I could make sense of. I'm hoping that ID Vault will make it even easier to change multiple passwords often.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for part two, where I'll reveal a few more secrets about how to avoid all the things that go bump on the net.

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