In the past year, I have had two companies notify me that my or my wife's personal data was compromised in a security breach. As a consolation, they both offered two years of identity theft protection and monitoring. At this rate, I will be able to have identity theft protection for free for the rest of my life. The reality is that more and more companies are being hacked and private data is going to be exposed. Unless you live your entire life without doing business with anybody – banks, insurance companies, internet providers, or even hospitals – you simply cannot ensure that your personal information is totally secure.
What you can do, however, is take steps to make your information less vulnerable. When security consultant Mark Burnett compiled a list of the 10,000 most common passwords from data dumped on the internet by hackers, he found the most common password... was "password". The second most common password? 123456. For somebody that wants to break into your account, using any of these common passwords might slow them down long enough to grab a snack before they start buying cases of Doritos and 90" TVs under your name. The problem with passwords is that the very thing that makes them safe – that they are completely random and contain multiple types of characters – also makes them useless. Who will be able to remember the multitude of passwords we are required to have (and NEVER repeat!) if they all look like somebody sat on a keyboard and rolled around for a second? Fortunately, most websites recognize the problem and provide ways to make your accounts more secure.