09/14/2011 12:14 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2011

How Is All This Hacking Affecting My Identity?

Without question, 2011 is the year for hackers of all kinds to get their 15 minutes of fame. But it feels like it's lasting a lot longer than 15 minutes. With so many different breeds of hackers, each with their own agenda and an endless supply of potential targets, the media has certainly been more than willing to give them all the attention they could possibly want.

Major publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, seem to have journalists working full time to cover the hacker chronicles. Significant players and events like WikiLeaks, HB Gary, Anonymous, Lulz, IMF, Sony, RSA, Epsilon, the News of The World voicemail hacking scandal in Britain, and so many others have helped bring data security and identity theft issues to the forefront of the public's attention. Much of the coverage has been sensationalist, but the reality is that we are indeed hemorrhaging information all over the place.

Initially, hackers went after sensitive personal data like Social Security numbers. Then they moved on to credit card numbers and bank account numbers, and then usernames and passwords. Military records have been breached, corporate emails have been exposed, and there have been targeted attacks on government records. At one point last year, the total number of records breached hovered around half a billion. But if we were to broaden the definition of what counts as a breached record, I'd guess that number would have to quadruple, at least.

No matter how you slice it, your information is at risk, whether it's on your own PC or some other computer or database somewhere. It isn't a matter of if but when you'll receive a letter from some company saying they were breached and you are at risk.

In security, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense. The worst thing you can do now is nothing.

Invest in identity theft protection.

Install/update anti-virus and anti-spyware.

Consider a credit freeze.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss the Epsilon breach on Fox News. (Disclosures)