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Five Lessons Learned From the $45 Million Stolen From Finance Giants

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Hackers made headlines across the world early 2013, after a group of computer-savvy thieves stole $45 million from ATMs globally. This endeavor was accomplished within hours, as hackers targeted credit card processing companies, raising account withdrawal limits and draining funds from accounts in 27 different countries. Cameras caught street teams visited ATMs and withdrew massive amounts of cash at night, then stuffing the funds into backpacks to escape.

Hackers find weaknesses in a current system, and then exploit them for gain. Many businesses and consumers can learn valuable lessons to protect their own financial assets and information. Here are five ways to keep sensitive data more secure.

1. Check accounts regularly

Maintain regular awareness of current accounts and funds by monitoring account activity at least once a week. Catching a fraudulent charge right away can help banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions take action. This may include freezing an account, disabling ATM cards, and other security reactions. Most hackers hope that their victims will not immediately notice suspicious activity, and may continue to take money from an account in the future. Keeping an eye on all assets can help one stop fraudulent activity early.

2. Rotate passwords

Building a secure password and rotating it every few months is a best practice used by businesses and IT departments globally. One’s account security is only as strong as his or her password, so make sure to choose a financial password that is unlike other passwords. Blend words, uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols into a complex password. Try to rotate these passwords once every few months to prevent unauthorized access.

3. Never give out account information

Hackers will often prey on those who willingly provide sensitive information. If anyone emails or calls posing as a bank or financial institution, be wary of giving them any personal account information. Identity thieves and hackers will try to get information by posing as authority figures and just asking. No one should ever ask for usernames, passwords, Social Security numbers, or other sensitive information over the phone or via email.

4. Keep records secure

Paper records or digital data storing financial information should be kept in a secure area. Hard drives and files may be kept in a home or office safe, or in areas that thieves cannot easily reach. Create an emergency document, in case financial account information is lost. Depending on the value of these documents, a safety deposit box at a bank may be appropriate.

5. Use reputable card processors

Since large, card processing companies typically become victims of hacker attacks, it is important to find a reputable company with fraud insurance and safety protocol. Some of the card processing companies that were hit during the 2013 ATM attack were smaller, foreign processors without a secure reputation. While seeking ways to process transactions and manage assets, one should always seek out trustworthy and well-known services.

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