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updated: 2/3/2017 10:35 AM

How to protect your personal information

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  • Philip E.  Ruben

    Philip E. Ruben

  • Samantha  M. Ruben

    Samantha M. Ruben


An online playground for computer hackers has been created by the ever increasing link between technology and the internet. With more people converting to smartphones, tablets, laptops and smart televisions, there are more areas for a hacker to access private, sensitive information and to commit a cybercrime.

The recent speculations about Russia engaging in cyberattacks during the U.S. presidential election are only the tip of the iceberg. Hackers have different motivations, which can be for greed, ego, disruption, etc., for their attacks, but their techniques of invasion can occur across many fronts.

Cybercrimes, which cause damage to and upload invasive software to smartphones or computers, affect small businesses, corporations and the private individual. So much of business engagement takes place on the web, as thousands, if not millions, of goods a day are bought online, revealing names, addresses, and credit card information; emails are sent back and forth concerning sensitive information; and consumers manage their private bank accounts from online servers.

But with increased reliance on wireless networks and Bluetooth, physical objects linked to the internet are now prone to attack. For example, objects that can now be accessed by a hacker include front doors and home security systems that can be unlocked from phones

There are many simple steps that can be taken to prevent a cyberattack that can save money, your business and future hassle. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the average cost of a cyberattack is $9,000.

The easiest step to prevent against hackers is to pick a complicated password, and never share your password with anyone. We hear this piece of advice over and over, but requiring employees to change passwords every few months can make a big difference. Back in 2012, a computer cluster was built that can guess 350 billion passwords per second. This essentially means it can test every Windows password in less than six hours.

One way to better protect a password is to rely on a series of words and use memory techniques, or mnemonics, to help you remember how to decode it. Another great defense is to use a combination of numbers, special characters, and both lowercase and capital letters.

Another step is to back up your data often and store the data as a hard copy and nonaccessible from the internet. Keep your systems, browsers, anti-virus and other critical software up to date. Most updates are free from such companies and are critical to protection. For your email account, make sure your settings do not provide for automatically downloading attachments. Most viruses are contained in such downloads. Never provide personal information via email. You can contact just about any company directly to verify this request. Emails are very easy to attack and items such as social security numbers or bank account numbers should never be sent via email.

Lastly, be suspicious of unknown links or requests sent through email or text messages. No matter whom the sender may be, you should always be suspicious and never answer strange questions or click on unknown links.

• Philp E. Ruben is a corporate, transactional, securities lawyer and founding partner with Firsel Ross LLC in Bannockburn. Samantha Ruben is a first year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law.