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Q&A: Protecting Your Online Information

November 11, 2016
Senator Chuck Grassley , Traer Star-Clipper

Q: Why is it a big deal for consumers to get serious about cyber security?

A: Technology opens infinite opportunities for innovation and communication in the 21st century economy, from the way we conduct business and our way of life. It also opens the door for data thieves to pluck sensitive personal information from Americans right underneath our noses. Hackers exploit the internet to invade individual privacy and steal financial information, health data and an individual's identity. The risk is real and the fall-out from cybercrimes is far reaching. Just consider two massive data breaches that compromised the identities and sensitive personal information for hundreds of millions of consumers. In September a massive data breach was reported by technology giant Yahoo, confirming information from at least 500 million accounts had been stolen. A year ago, the Office of Personnel Management reported that more than 20 million federal employees were affected by the cyber theft of stolen personnel files. At the consumer level, data breaches raise serious concerns about what happens when sensitive information gets into the wrong hands, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, fingerprint records, credit card information, bank accounts, web browsing histories and email communication. From a national security standpoint, cybersecurity is a major concern for the United States. Cyber-terrorism has tremendous consequences for our economy and financial institutions, intelligence and military communities, food security and public health. That's why policymakers and the federal government must stay laser focused to keep U.S. cyber security nimble and strong to protect our interests from terrorism, hostile foreign intelligence and cyber-centric crime networks.

Q: What can consumers do to protect themselves against cyber fraud?

A: First, don't underestimate the importance of protecting your personal information shared online. Be sure to follow basic security measures, such as making sure your passwords are strong. It's convenient to use the same password for every online account. Remember that also makes it even more convenient for cybercriminals and data thieves to swipe all your information if they hack into just one of your online accounts. The National Cyber Security Alliance offers password tips and resources for consumers at Many online accounts offer consumers additional anti-hacking tools to thwart data thieves, such as two-step authentication. This combines a password with a unique code that may be sent to your mobile phone to certify one's identity.

The massive data breaches at Yahoo and OPM make it clear that consumers, businesses and policymakers need to figure out how to lock the barn door before the horse gets out. I'm currently working on bipartisan legislation to create uniform data security and breach notification measures to ensure that businesses of all sizes know what steps they should take to protect consumer information, while providing individuals timely notification if a breach of their online accounts occurs. This is a needed tool that will help to strengthen protocols for consumer protection and to empower businesses to help protect their customers and their bottom lines from cybercrimes.

Q: If a data breach occurs with a business or online account, what should Iowans do?

A: Be as pro-active as possible to protect yourself. For starters, the Federal Trade Commission recommends changing passwords and usernames. Contact the company if you're unable to access your online accounts to receive assistance on how to recover or close your account. If credit card information has been hacked, contact the financial institution to close your account and closely monitor all other cards and financial accounts. The FTC offers additional tips at



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