There have been some pretty disturbing news stories of companies whose computer systems have been hacked, notably Colonial Pipeline. It would seem that nothing is safe and there is little that can be done. It leaves us with the imagery of warehouses full of computers running random sets of numbers and letters to find passwords to hack our Amazon accounts.
A number of years back when I was a federal investigator, I had all of mine and Laura’s personal information, including my fingerprints hacked by the Chinese government. Many of you who held clearance also received notice from the Office of Personnel Management that your information had also been compromised. It was a serious breach of national security as the Chinese government now had information on people who held clearances and where they worked and what they did. The real story here isn’t that it happened but how it happened. A background investigator had his or her laptop compromised and the spyware was uploaded when the computer was out of sight. A pretty basic security protocol wasn’t followed and now myself and many other people here in Huntsville have a lifetime of free credit watch services.
The Colonial Pipeline story is similar as well. An employee who had access to their VPN used the same password for many accounts and was hacked. Again, pretty simple security common sense wasn’t followed and just like that, a pipeline that provides a significant amount of gasoline to the east coast was shut down. It doesn’t take too much effort or computer power when humans trade common sense for expediency.
Our firm has some pretty straightforward protocols. We will never trade or move money because of any email we receive. We will always call you on the phone to confirm the instructions we receive from you electronically. But there are some pretty common sense steps you can take on your own. 1. Change your passwords often. 2. Avoid using personal information such as date of birth or home address. 3. I recently read that using a part of a verse from your favorite song makes it extremely difficult to hack. I especially like number 3 as many of today’s hackers don’t spend a lot of time listening to Sinatra or Tom Jones.
Mike Mickels is President of CochranMickels Retirement Specialists and an avid sporting clay competitor. CochranMickels Retirement Specialists provides personalized planning and investment services to individuals approaching and in retirement. They also provide retirement and benefits training to Federal employees. Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc, a Registered Investment Advisor. CochranMickels and Cambridge are not affiliated.