How to Protect Your Online Identity from the Shellshock Bash Bug

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated November 5, 2018

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September 26, 2015

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

The Bash Bug is here and it is apparently way worse than Heartbleed was. This bug leaves most operating systems wide open to hackers who want to steal your personal information, and has been around so long that it might take quite a while to patch everything. It’s so bad, it even affects Mac OS X users, which are usually pretty safe from hackers. The bug could affect everything from computers to smartphones to connected devices like smart thermostats or refrigerators. So how do you protect your identity? Here are three things you can do:

The tech world is already abuzz with the Bash Bug, so many companies are already issuing patches for their operating software. If you get a notification to update your software, do it. Many of the recently releases patches have had limited success, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you get a notification about a patch, first make sure you can verify that it is from the correct company (Apple, HP, etc.), and then follow the instructions to download it. Many companies are adding patches on their end, but if you need to install a patch yourself, make sure you do it. There is no such thing as too much protection.

One of the best things you can do is to keep your password updated. Change it every couple days if you can, or at least once a week, until software companies have manufactured better patches for the bug. Make sure to use a long string of letters and numbers. The more random the better. The harder it is for the hackers to crack your password, the safer your information will be. Also, it might be a good idea to back up all your information on an external hard drive, just in case.

One of the most horrible parts of being hacked is having your financial information stolen. If hackers can access your credit cards or bank accounts, or even open up credit accounts in your name, your finances could be wrecked. How can you avoid that happening? You can’t really, but if you stay on top of it, you can minimize the damage. Here are some tips to recognize identity theft as it’s happening:

  1. Read your statements: Many of us end up throwing away credit card statements once we see the balance, but it is always a good idea to go over the charges on your statement and make sure there are not any unusual charges listed. If you see any charges that you did not make, contact your credit card company right away and report it. Also report it to the police. Identity theft is a crime, and you will need a police report to help minimize the damage from someone using your credit card.
  2. Check your bank account daily: This is a big one. It is harder to recover stolen money from your bank account than from your credit card, so be diligent about checking your bank account and looking for any fraudulent charges. If you find any, report it to your bank immediately, so they can start the process of reporting it. Again, report it to the police as well.
  3. Check your credit report: If someone has opened a credit card in your name, you might not have any indication for a long time, since there are not statements or accounts to check. The best way to look for this is to check your credit report. Your credit report lists all accounts opened in your name, so if there is an account that you did not open listed, you know you’ve been a victim of identity theft and can report it. Contact the bank that the new account is through and also the credit bureau that is reporting the new account.
  4. Sign up for identity theft protection: This might be an extra step, but if you don’t think you have the time to stay on top of your finances and look for fraud, or just want extra protection, an identity theft protection service is a good way to go. They will monitor your statements as well as your credit report to look for any fraudulent activity. The best companies also monitor the black market and other shady places to see if your information turns up.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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