You have decided to take the big step and transition from the service. Giving up the security of a steady paycheck and loss of comradery can be spooky. But with the required preparation and job search, military transition can be a daunting time. A tremendous number of government and non-government organizations provide a multitude of capabilities for service members and veterans during transition. This assistance is so critical and appreciated, as it can be difficult to navigate without a guide or roadmap.

Unfortunately, the fog of military transition continues to become thicker. It now appears American military personnel may be exploited during this vulnerable period by foreign intelligence gathering. Last fall a spoof website, “Hire Military Heroes”, was linked to Iranian hackers. The site loaded unsuspecting visitors with malware, and had a url designed to lure those attempting to visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce careers site.

What can we do against these and other nefarious attackers? Cull through the multitude of materials, and there are about a half dozen proven methods to protect yourself.

1. Strong passwords are critical.

Most literature states that you should not repeat your passwords on different sites and that you should change your passwords regularly. Make them complex. That means using a combination of at least 10 letters, numbers, and symbols. Finally, develop a password management system on your computer in Excel or Word, that is password protected.  Even better, purchase a password application to keep your passwords locked up.

2. Use full-service internet protection.

Make sure you get real-time protection against existing and emerging malware including ransomware and viruses. This is a rudimentary step to protect your private and financial information when you go online. Get one and use it.  You would be amazed how many people do not!

3. Keep your system and application software up to date.

Pay special attention to your operating systems and internet security software. Cybercriminals exploit known flows in your software to gain access to your system. Patching these flaws can reduce your chances of becoming a cybercrime target.

4. Manage your professional networking and social media settings.

Your personal and private information must be locked down. Be careful about what you share!  Cybercriminals often get your personal information like your pet’s name or mother’s maiden name with just a few clicks, So the less you share publicly, the better.

5. Harden your home network.

Start with a strong encryption password. Learn about your Wi-Fi and firewall settings. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic when possible, especially on public Wi-Fi.

6. Protect yourself against identity theft.

Be careful to provide no personal data to anyone, unless you know who, how and why you are providing the information. Identity theft can happen anywhere. Someone might steal your mail, credit card or other data, to access account and financial information.  Keep your travel plans off social media and begin using a VPN when accessing the internet over your hotel’s Wi-Fi network.

Finally, know what to do if you become a victim. I have personally had my identity stolen and it is no fun. If you’ve become a victim of a cybercrime, you need to alert the local police and, in some cases, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission. Contact the “Big 3” consumer credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and place fraud alerts or freeze your accounts. Get a copy of your credit reports; you never know what you might find. Contact the companies or bank(s) where you know fraud has occurred. Your state attorney general will have assistance information as well on the 5 W’s of reporting on-line.

If the crime is minor, it is still important to contact the authorities, as it may assist investigators and perhaps to help to thwart criminals from taking advantage of others in the future. A military transition is a time of many changes – don’t let becoming a victim of cyber criminals be one of them.

Wishing you a lucrative and safe military transition.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at