Cyber hackers finding innovative ways to crack into your personal information

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - We hear about it all too often, hackers finding innovative ways to crack into your personal information. The internet is a great tool, but experts are saying with the evolving technology, cyber hackers are getting more sophisticated and faster than we can respond.

Your name, address, birthday, and even social security number could be at risk. Especially after massive data breeches with credit card companies, e-mail services and so many other things. Experts say at this point, we can assume all of our personal information is up for sale on the dark web.

According to NBC News, fraudsters successfully stole a little over $16 billion last year, the highest amount recorded in four years.

Cyber security professor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, Stanton Greenawalt, said every day you're on the internet, you're at risk even if you leave your computer on with your browsers open.

Experts also say be careful when surfing the web on an unsecured network, like public Wi-Fi. This is an easy way for hackers to watch what you're doing or generate their own Wi-Fi to look similar to the one you're using, hoping to get you to join. Greenawalt said one of the first steps you can take to secure yourself from potential hackers is protecting your passwords. Experts say to avoid using personal information in your password, use a minimum of 12 characters and throw in some random letters, special characters and a mixture of upper and lower case letters. If you're someone who can't keep track of different passwords for so many accounts, Professor Greenawalt has an idea for you.

"Another big tool, which is free especially for someone at home, is the password manager and I would use the password manager tool even if it's not free, they are not expensive. You can use them on your flash drive and then you can set it up where it will manage all of your passwords for you and you don't have to worry about forgetting them. The only password you have to remember is the password into your USB account to do it. So, the password manager is a very effective tool," said Greenawalt.

Authorities say you can protect yourself with a multi-factor authentication if possible, meaning a requirement of multiple steps to access an account, making it more difficult for hackers to get a hold of your valuable information. They also say to avoid accessing personal information on public Wi-Fi, make sure you put a security freeze on your accounts and sign-up for account alerts. Most financial institutions offer notifications by text or e-mail, allowing the account holder to receive real-time updates to easily spot suspicious activity.

In addition to making your passwords strong, Professor Greenawalt said one of the biggest threats you'll face every day is checking your e-mail and running into unsecured links.

"There are many people who will go out there and send you random emails and tell you, 'hey someone just charged your account please contact me we have to stop this.' All they are doing is phishing for that one percent of people that will answer that email and then get private information, so if you get an email and you don't recognize it, don't open it, delete it. If it's that important, they will send it back to you again," said Greenawalt.

Professor Greenawalt said make sure to stay up to date with your antivirus systems because they're constantly updating and fixing holes in their system.

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