Protect Your Personal Data and Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

By By Robert E. Holtfreter, Ph.D., Educator Associate Member

Taking Back the ID 

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) recently reported that “malicious software may have allowed hackers to get to data maintained by SRA International, including employee names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and health-care provider information.” PRC didn’t report how many personal records were compromised or how many employees were exposed to possible identity theft. But SRA, a company with expertise in cyber security, IT systems, infrastructure and managed services, couldn’t explain how the breach could have occurred in the first place.

We can never entirely eliminate the risk of theft of personal information from our computers regardless of our precautions. As we go about our daily routines, we voluntarily and involuntarily surrender the control of our personal data to others. Obviously, a thief can steal our personal information if we’re sloppy in safeguarding it or if the external parties with which we do business don’t protect and store it adequately.

In this column, we’ll review some basic steps you can take to minimize the risks. Some of the tips will be familiar, but all are vital. As fraud examiners, we have a duty to protect information on our computers – not just ours but data from our organizations’ and clients’ examinations. We should always be ready to answer questions on this topic, even if we don’t bill ourselves as computer forensics experts.  

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