Preventing Identity Theft

To mark Cyber Security Awareness Month, UM professors offer tips to safeguard personal information online.

By Annette Gallagher
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 10, 2013) — With identity theft increasing, and becoming harder to recover from, Dr. Saman Zonouz and Dr. Eric Davis Rozier, professors of Computer and Electrical Engineering at the University of Miami College of Engineering, say that it's best to try to prevent identity theft from happening in the first place.

Zonouz, who is also director of the 4N6 Research Group at UM, and his team conduct research on the latest in cyber threats and how to defend aganst them; Rozier runs a big data and security research group called TRUST Lab.

To mark Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is held in October, Zounouz and Rozier provide suggestions for protecting identity – and money – from being stolen by online or real world cyber criminals:

• Treat your laptop like cash. If you had money laying on a table in a public place, you would not turn your back on it even for a minute. Treat your laptop the same way.

• Don’t let spyware spy on you. Keep your operating systems and web browsers up to date. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

• Don’t get hooked by phishers. Only click on links that you know where they are coming from. Don’t reply to emails and messages asking for personal or financial information.

• Get a passing grade on passwords. Passwords should contain upper and lower case letters, number and symbols. Avoid common words and proper names. Never use the same passwords for two accounts.

• If your personal information is compromised: 1) place a fraud alert on your credit reports; 2) contact your bank and financial institution closing any account that has been tampered with; 3) file a police report with local law enforcement officials; and 4) report the incident to the federal trace commission.

• Don’t let your web browser remember your passwords for you. Anyone who could get access to your machine would then have access to your accounts.

• Your phone is only as secure as the apps you install on it. Don’t install apps from untrusted sources, and be careful about the permissions that you allow your apps to have on your phone.

The 4N6 Research Group, which is located in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, is dedicated to cutting-edge research in cyber security and big data. The Group partners with both industry and government to stay on top of, and conduct research related to, the latest in cyber threats and how to defend against them at all levels.

Visit for more information about National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Annette Gallagher can be reached at 305-284-1121.

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