Consumer Alert: Changing one key feature on your iPhone could help protect your identity

Consumer Alert: Keeping personal info safe online

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Today’s Consumer Alert takes a look at keeping your personal information safe online. And there are few people with better advice than a professional hacker. I write stories about cybersecurity all the time, but Luke Secrist, CEO of BuddoBot offered advice today that was completely new to me.

Clearly, we’re all at risk for identity theft. If you ever had any doubt, the huge 2017 Equifax breach that exposed the personal information of 143 million people — 40 percent of the U.S. population — left no doubt. The University of Delaware gathered statistics from public data and learned that as of August, there had been 694 major company breaches across the globe. That’s three major companies breached every day. The number of records breached was 612.4 million.

The latest breach making national headlines is the giant hacking of Northwell Health and Crouse Health, potentially exposing the data of 4 million New Yorkers from Queens to Syracuse. So, I interviewed Secrist.  His company was hired to help another hospital system fortify its systems. It does it by hacking into businesses to show them where their vulnerabilities lie.  And his story is chilling.

“When we were doing our tests just from within the lobby on their guest Wi-Fi, we were able to pivot onto their internal network by means of adversarial techniques,” said Secrist. “And from there, we were able to find several different networks within the hospital, one being the ICU, and were able to take ownership of life support systems.”  

Secrist founded BuddoBot business 15 years ago.  So, I asked him if there was ever a business he was not able to infiltrate. The answer was no — a terrifying answer for consumers. He says the onus is on consumers to take steps to reduce our digital footprints.

“By default our phones say our name and the phone, like when I bought my phone, it says Luke’s iPhone,” said Secrist. “The first thing I do is, I go in and I change that name to something completely different. And I do that with all my devices the same with the family. And I recommend that for everyone.”

He says it’s easy.  Just go to Settings, then General. At the top of the page, it will say your name’s iPhone.  Tap Name and you can change it to whatever you like, preferably something that doesn’t identify you.

Another essential security step is to turn off AirDrop on your iPhone. Secrist says if someone sitting near you sends you a file and you mindlessly accept it, a hacker could take control of your phone. Just go to settings, then general, then AirDrop. You can then tap Receiving Off.

Lastly, watch what you put on social media. It’s safe to assume at least some of your information is already being sold on the dark web. If a hacker combines that with information you expose on social media, that might be all he needs to steal your identity.