Weekly Columns

During a recent trip to Walmart, I was introduced to the new method to process debit and credit card payments. Instead of swiping my card, I had to insert my card in the payment terminal. That’s because credit card companies and banks adopted the EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) technology to make transactions more secure and prevent fraud. This is an important step to safeguarding our sensitive personal information from thieves. 

We are a nation that is dependent on technology. Sensitive personal data such as financial accounts, Social Security numbers and medical information are secured in cyberspace. Unfortunately, this information that we trust is protected, is too often breached. 

Cybersecurity attacks are becoming news headlines too often and too many Americans are innocent victims of these breaches. Over the past year data breaches have impacted retail, health care, finance and entertainment industries. The government was also a victim. In the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach, personal data of at least 21.5 million current and former federal employees was compromised. 

As public-private partnerships develop and implement critical cyber protections, there is a role for each of us to play. As chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m promoting oversight and responsible use of taxpayer dollars to prevent future attacks on government servers. As a consumer, I’m focusing – like all American should – in protecting my personal data because we all have an interest in keeping our electronic information safe. This is the focus of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. 

The increase in cyber attacks has focused attention on protecting our digital lives. It’s not too late to implement commonsense security measures to help prevent becoming a victim of a cyber attack. 

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Limit personal information you post online and use privacy settings: Set social networking sites to privacy to filter who is able to see personal information. Don’t send personal data like bank information via email. There is a potential that hackers could capture this information.
  • Protect Personal Information: Make passwords strong by using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Never share your password and create new passwords for each online account.
  • Keep it Clean: Update your operating system to protect against viruses and spyware. 

We must take action to stay one step ahead of hackers who will continue to find ways to infiltrate cyberspace and steal sensitive data. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report showed that from 2006 to 2014, security incident reports by federal agencies grew 1,121 percent. Protecting cyberspace is an issue we will continue to monitor and develop better methods to protect our digital information. While we recognize October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we need to practice cybersafety year-round.