As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, shame on the University of South Carolina which recently learned that a laptop of an administrator was stolen containing personal information including the names and Social Security numbers of 6,300 students. The computer was stolen in April and only now have the affected students been told of the heightened risk of identity theft they are now facing. The shameful part of this is the fact that for years universities, companies, state and federal agencies including NASA have had this same problem occur and many of these entities, such as the University of South Carolina still have not taken basic steps to prevent this problem. In fact, the University of South Carolina disclosed only a year ago that it had suffered a hack that put 34,000 students in jeopardy of identity theft.
One of the first things that should be done is to protect such computers with complex passwords. Too often the passwords used are easily cracked by skillful hackers. In addition, it is a simple matter to protect the information contained in the computer by encrypting it, but again, the University of South Carolina, as many others, failed to take this basic protective step. As I have said many times before, regardless of how well you protect your personal information, you are only as safe as the entity with the weakest security that holds your personal information. It is for this reason that the place to find that helping hand is at the end of your own arm. I suggest you follow the detailed steps I provide in “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” to protect yourself as best you can. You can purchase this book by clicking on the link to the book on the right hand side of this page.