Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
This week’s collection of articles contains several warnings. It’s a dangerous world out there, and I want to ensure you are able to enjoy the upcoming holidays with your loved ones.
So take a close look at today’s alert, and share these articles with your friends and family. I hope they help you stay safe and warm.
Let’s get to it.
Last Wednesday, Yahoo reported a three-year-old hack that compromised over 1 billion accounts. This is in addition to the breach disclosed in September revealing that 500 million accounts were hacked in 2014.
Yahoo has urged users to change their passwords, but frankly, a simple password change isn’t going to cut it. Since mass hacks are occurring at such an alarming frequency these days, you need to develop more prudent online habits — in addition to changing your password.
Speaking of passwords, you should have a different password for every site or app that requires one. This way, if one site is hacked, every single one of your online accounts won’t be compromised. To keep track of all your passwords, I recommend using a password manager program such as LastPass or Password Chef.
Another way you can protect your sensitive information is to create an online persona of sorts. Enter fake information into online forms — like a bogus birthday and a pseudonym — to keep your true identity private. And consider getting a P.O. Box so you never have to worry about hackers finding out where you lay your head at night.
The lion’s share of articles I read this week touched on the topic of cybersecurity. From email hacks to surveillance drones, pundits were busy exchanging views on how to better protect your personal information.
Looking after your financial security is equally important. An Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Saturday posed the question: “Will Donald Trump Cave on Social Security?”
Even if benefits aren’t slashed over the next four years, Social Security checks simply aren’t enough for people to live on. If you don’t want to spend your golden years struggling to make ends meet, check out this strategy to revolutionize your retirement.
Best of all, this program won’t affect your ability to collect the (measly) Social Security benefits you’re already entitled to. But you have to act before Jan. 15 to take advantage, so don’t delay.
Winter showed up with a vengeance in many parts of the U.S. this past weekend Hazardous conditions caused closures, travel delays, hundreds of accidents and, unfortunately, numerous fatalities.
I’ve already given you several ways to stay safe while traveling in winter weather — carry a paper map in your car, always have at least a half a tank of gas and be sure to keep a 72-hour kit in your vehicle in case you end up stranded on the side of the road. It’s also a good idea to get a tuneup before any more severe weather hits. You’ll want to be sure you’ve got good tires and your brakes are in working order.
But the best way to avoid danger on icy roads? Stay home. If you can work remotely or put off those errands until another time, then hold down the fort. If you’ve got food and water stocked for an emergency situation, you should be able to hang tight for a day or two until the roads are clear.
If you’re traveling for the holidays — whether domestically or abroad — be sure to exercise greater situational awareness than you normally might.
The current advisory statement from the U.S. Department of State doesn’t expire until Feb. 20, 2017, so continue to be mindful of your surroundings if you’re traveling in the early new year as well.
Specifically, if you’re attending “large holiday events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation and frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc.” The horrific events that happened yesterday afternoon at a Christmas market in Berlin are a tragic case in point.
In crowded public places, always know your egress (exit route) in case of an emergency. And keep in mind the best exit might not be the way you entered.
Another day, another way criminals are attempting to scam you this holiday season. Check out this CBS News article and learn how to identify fake websites and other indications that you’re not dealing with a real company.
Be extra mindful what links you click on, especially if they’re contained in an unexpected email, and never, ever download a questionable attachment.
As I mentioned earlier, if you get a P.O. Box, you won’t have to disclose your home address on internet forms. And if you’re not home to accept the delivery, the post office will hold it for you.
You might also consider applying for a credit card that you only use for online shopping, one that’s not linked to your bank — and your savings.
It’s easy to get excited by the prospect of a surprise gift, but don’t be fooled by a cleverly disguised Trojan horse.
Until next time…