Protect Your Data From Cyber Crooks

You can't prevent data breaches, but there are steps you can take to better secure your personal and financial information.

Padlock and credit cards on top of laptop
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Recent high-profile government data breaches add to the long list of cyber attacks putting consumers' information at risk. Given the scale of such attacks, "you have to assume we're all going to be victims at some point," says Neal O'Farrell, security and identity theft expert at Credit Sesame, a consumer credit advice Web site. "The focus has to be on detecting it early and minimizing the damage."

Both the IRS and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced in recent weeks that they have been targeted by cyber crooks. The IRS said in late May that hackers had gained unauthorized access to information on roughly 100,000 taxpayers. And OPM said in early June that personal information of about 4 million current and former government employees may have been stolen. These attacks come on the heels of other large-scale data breaches in the private sector, such as at health insurer Anthem.

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Eleanor Laise
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Retirement Report
Laise covers retirement issues ranging from income investing and pension plans to long-term care and estate planning. She joined Kiplinger in 2011 from the Wall Street Journal, where as a staff reporter she covered mutual funds, retirement plans and other personal finance topics. Laise was previously a senior writer at SmartMoney magazine. She started her journalism career at Bloomberg Personal Finance magazine and holds a BA in English from Columbia University.