TECH SECURITY: Experts issue warning after hacks - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

TECH SECURITY: Experts issue warning after hacks

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2014 was a busy year for hackers online -- between an attack on Sony Pictures that revealed thousands of private emails, to several high-profile data breaches at stores like Home Depot and Target, your personal data has never been more at-risk online.

In the wake of the Sony Pictures hack, the company's entertainment co-chairman, Amy Pascal, stepped down Thursday. Anthem Insurance also reported a data breach that may have revealed the personal information of 80 million customers.

"Anytime a computer talks to another computer it's vulnerable," said Steve Crozier, a Waterloo Police officer and cyber forensics expert.

Crozier owns SmartTech in Cedar Falls. He says the threats to your personal info aren't going away.

"It's always going to be this way," he said. "The only true defense people have at their disposal for all these types of cyber crimes is education."

Crozier spends his days digging into clients' computers and mobile devices, figuring out what went wrong. He's found viruses installed in the background, malware, ransomware, personal information stolen -- everything. He said the best way to protect your family online -- keep your common sense on high-alert when you log in. And, if somebody contacts you with an offer that's too good to be true: it probably is.

"If someone is sending you money, and they want you to send something back, that's no good," he said.

Another thing to remember -- your smartphone is a computer too, and subject to similar risks. That's why Crozier recommends installing antivirus on your phone as well as your personal computer. One app he recommends: Lookout.

He also recommends activating tracking software, like Apple's Find My iPhone feature or Android's Device Manager locator

"If you have a lost device or something of that nature, a good product is going to be able to find your device for you," Crozier said.

Because with mobile banking more popular than ever -- a lost phone can mean more than a hijacked instagram feed.

"You could be looking at getting your bank account wiped out before you even find your phone," Crozier said.

But there's only so much you can do. In 2015, tech experts predict hackers will attempt to exploit big corporations' data vulnerabilities more than ever. It's a lower time investment for higher reward -- hacking a individual user reveals only their data, hacking the source can breach millions.

"They're going to attack places where all of that information comes together," Crozier said.

Still -- personal security is important. The advice may seem old, but it's still the best option -- keep strong passwords, and change them often, and never give out personal information to strangers, either online or over the phone.

Crozier keeps a guide for building strong passwords here, and more advice on staying safe online here.

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