Our Perspectives

Timing 1

Learn How to Protect Yourself From a Cyber Security Breach

By: Becky DeVries
Published: October 2020

“Hello. I need you to wire USD. I am very busy today. Please let me know how soon you can execute my transfer request.”

Have you ever sent an email with those words? Probably not. But, your financial advisor receives emails like that frequently. The message claims there’s an urgent need, but you – the person making the request to transfer money – can’t be reached to talk about it. Hackers are incredibly savvy when it comes to cyber security, and the scary thing is, sometimes the wording even sounds like you when it isn’t. Another element of the scam: hackers do a great job of making an email appear to be sent from your email address. This is called ‘ email spoofing’. Or worse yet, they may have actually sent it from your email address. I once spoke with a client whose email had been hacked. I received an email from him with wording similar to what I referenced above. When I spoke with the client, he told me that when he was logged in to his email account, he could see the fraudulent sent messages being deleted in real time right before his eyes! That client suddenly had a greater understanding of the need for all of the security measures financial institutions have adopted.

Whether it’s a fake email, false tax return, credit card fraud, or something else, cyber security threats are all too common. And they are not always easy to remedy. As a client, security protocols can be annoying. However, there is a good reason we have them in place: to protect you and your assets.

One of the latest cyber security tactics is credential stuffing. Criminals will use email addresses, usernames, and passwords and try them on various sites using an automated script. Even finding handful that work successfully can be very lucrative. This is why you are encouraged to change your password, and to use different passwords for different accounts. “Password” is not a good password!

You should also always opt for “multifactor authentication” whenever it is offered. If you have ever attempted to log in to an account and get a message that the entity wants to send you a one-time confirmation code via text message or through an authentication app, you have used multifactor authentication. Yes, it’s an extra step, but one that may be able to stop a hacker and keep your accounts safe.

What other pro-active steps can you take?

  • Freeze your credit
  • Monitor your credit through one of the three credit bureaus
  • Monitor your children’s credit
  • Change your passwords
  • Consider closing accounts you don’t use

Follow directions for cleaning up email and creating strong passwords. Use a password generating tool, like the one provided from LastPass. It will create a random and secure password for you. Other tips to consider: If you have been a victim of identity theft, listen to the experts. Don’t try to correct the issues on your own. If your bank offers credit monitoring, enroll. If your internet provider is willing to help you clean up your email account, take them up on the offer.

Technology is a wonderful thing and can be a major advantage, especially during a time when working remotely is the norm and convenience is not only appreciated but expected. However, it can be a negative if information falls into the wrong hands, so it’s imperative you take the time to manage and monitor your accounts closely.

Lastly, be aware. Change your passwords. Check your accounts for suspicious activity. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your financial advisor for advice or to execute transactions. He or she would be happy to speak with you in real time!

The opinions expressed are those of Becky DeVries as of the date stated on this material and are subject to change. Becky DeVries is an Associate Financial Advisor with the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company.