How to Plan for a Cyberattack:
10 Tips for Protecting Your Data and Profile

Jane S. Hoffman, who served as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs for New York City, now a Senior Fellow at Harvard, and the author of the new book, Your Data, Their Billions: Unraveling and Simplifying Big Tech, shares 10 call-to-action tips for making sure you are ready for an internet disaster:

1. Food and Water:
When the electricity goes out, so do our refrigerators and freezers. Keep at least two gallons of water per person in your household on hand for drinking, and at least two weeks of nonperishable foods in your pantry.

2. Light:
If our grids are disabled, the first thing we’re going to need is light. Make sure you have flashlights and fresh batteries on hand, as well as candles and matches.

3. Back it Up:
Invest in portable power stations, backup generators, and/or solar-powered power sources in order to watch news on your televisions or computers, and keep your phones charged in order to stay connected. Make a copy of your computer hard drive on an external storage device, screenshot, or even write down on paper important phone numbers for friends and family.

4. Password Protect from Scams and Spam:
Don’t share your passwords or pins. Period. And change them regularly. Create strong passwords using both upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Opt-in to two-method verification systems where possible.

5. Know Who is Emailing You:
Don’t click on links or open email attachments from senders you don’t know. This is often how malware (and ransomware) is uploaded to your computer. Be especially aware that scammers can track down you and your vital information with the sharing of the most innocent photo of your home or workplace.

6. Invest in a VPN Internet Connection:
At home, and if you can afford it, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is, essentially, a private network within the ISP’s network that encrypts your internet connection. It hides your location, your search history and your private information.

7. Keep Cash On-Hand:
ATMs function with electricity too. Keep a small stash of emergency cash “under the mattress.”

8. Read Your Bank Statements, Check Your Credit Reports:
Check your checking and credit card statements regularly for activity or charges you don’t recognize. And check your credit report regularly to make sure it doesn’t reflect accounts you didn’t open or loans that you didn’t initiate.

9. Keep Your Cars Fueled or Charged:
Most gas pumps also need electricity to function and, though gas stations are required to be able to access alternative power sources, it is prudent not to let your gas tank go below halfway full. If you’ve got an electric car, charge it on a regular basis so you can travel to the nearest hub of your choice.

10. Count on Old School Mentality:
Prior to the internet revolution, our parents and grandparents all had survival skills that unfortunately seem obsolete. Ask the senior members of your family to share any other tips they think will help you live through a disaster. When you chat, you’ll see just how strong and inspiring those around you can be.

Jane S. Hoffman, former New York City Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University and a member of the advisory commission for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. She is also the Founder and Chairman of the Presidential Forum on Renewable Energy and co-author of Green: Your Place in the New Energy Revolution. In 2002, Hoffman was a Democratic candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor, and she has been profiled in The New York Times for her public advocacy.