Internet Security

Internet Takeover and Your Identity

By a Symantec employee

In this post, the Identity Theft Resource Center shares some information about an often-overlooked form of identity theft, Internet takeover.

Identity theft can be a frightening crime. Reports that are compiled in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual Aftermath survey indicate that many victims experience fear, feelings of mistrust, and a sense of helplessness after learning that their identities have been stolen. Not knowing who is using your identity and what they are doing with your finances and your good name is hard enough. When the crime involves Internet takeover, those feelings of fear can be even more pronounced.

Internet takeover is an often-overlooked form of identity theft, since it doesn’t necessarily have to involve your finances, your government benefits, or other typical targets. As its name suggests, it occurs when someone takes over any or all of your Internet accounts and uses them without your permission. It could be as simple as someone sending an email or private message from your account, but can be as involved as someone locking you out of all of your accounts.

Internet takeover is very real. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help minimize your chances of becoming a victim:

  1. Protect your email – You probably don’t think twice about password-protecting your online banking account, but too often, individuals leave their email accessible. Whether it’s leaving it open at work while you go to lunch or staying logged in on your smartphone, once someone can see your inbox, they can change all of your internet passwords, one by one. While in your inbox, they simply go to social, commercial and financial accounts they want to take over, and then click “Forgot my password.” Those websites usually send the link to your email for them to change the password, and they can now lock you out while using your accounts.
  2. Two-factor authentication – Sure, it might seem like a hassle to have to enter a code from a text message whenever you want to log into an account, but it’s another layer of protection. A hacker would have to have your physical phone in order to break into your accounts, even by clicking “Forgot my password.”
  3. Privacy settings – While a really skilled hacker can bypass a lot of security protocols, there’s no reason to make it easier for anyone to steal your information or gain access to your accounts. By keeping tight security settings on your accounts, you may be able to divert a would-be hacker.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” approach to your online security. Monitor your accounts regularly, and update your passwords frequently.

Article written by the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Editor’s note: This content was lightly edited and updated on Feb. 5, 2018.

Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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