It seems every week we’re surprised to learn yet another massive hacking event has occurred: In recent months, the U.S. accused North Korea of exposing internal Sony information, major corporations lost valuable customer information, and the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account was hacked by a pro-ISIS group. For individuals as well, protecting personal data is at the forefront of online privacy concerns.

All is not lost. There are steps we can take as individuals and small businesses to protect our data and credit card information. Many tools are free to use and easy to implement.

Educate your employees and your children about the dangers of hacking. When in doubt, simply don't open it.

Here are seven tactics you can already employ to protect yourself and your business against malicious hackers:

Educate your employees and your children about the dangers of hacking. When in doubt, simply don't open it.

1. Enable two-step authentication. Aside from the conventional wisdom – don’t use obvious passwords, like your birthday or your kids’ names - advancing two-step authentication is becoming a common way the big players are doubling down on password protection. Google offers two-step sign in, combining the traditional username/password requirement, plus an extra step where a code is sent in an SMS to your mobile phone.  The account holder enters this one-time code on the site to verify the identity by matching the phone number associated with the account.

2. Lock down your credit cards. Target, Staples, and most recently, Bebe have joined a long list of retailers that have been hacked. On the prowl for the crown jewels of hacking — credit card numbers — hackers are penetrating some of the biggest businesses in the world.

Unfortunately, banks only catch about 1/3 of fraudulent transactions. Download BillGuard to your mobile device to receive proactive alerts on suspicious charges on your account. Now with a partnership with a credit bureau, Experian, the mobile app’s crowdsourced information can more powerfully protect a user’s identity.

3. Use biometric authentication. Biometric authentication makes two-step authentication even more personalized. Leading banks that are serious about using cutting-edge security are turning to BioCatch to secure the login environment. BioCatch learns how a user interfaces with his or her keyboard and mouse and, using a behavioral profile, continuously authenticates a user to ensure he is who he says he is during an entire session — even post-login.

4. Say goodbye to your weakest link. Sending important documents as digital files can be downright dangerous. It takes one weak link – a subcontractor, perhaps – and your information is accessible, able to be copied, re-formatted and reused. With a tool like Covertix, businesses are protecting files to ensure they are secure, both on and off a company’s network. Businesses can track, control, and regulate information by setting security policies on specific files.

5. Do a cyber-audit. Make sure you invest the time and money to conduct a proper cyber-audit. Consult with your accountant or work with a local consultant to take a look on the security practices you’re using at home and in the office.

Items and files you store on a business network or in the cloud -- using services like Dropbox or iCloud -- run the risk of being leaked out, like the celebrity nude photos dripped out to the public in September of 2014. New technologies like the kind offered by BatBlue protect companies’ distributed assets spanning Brick & Mortar, Cloud & SaaS and Mobile & Remote platforms. A little time, money, and attention can go a long way in protecting your family’s or business’s data.

6. Consider using a password manager. Dual factor and biometrics can definitely help lock down your account. So will a strong, randomized password. Use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password that work on your phone, tablet, and desktop computer. These services generate a random, alpha-numeric password that’s at least 20 digits long and will also warn you if you’re using a password too frequently across multiple sites.

7. Heighten your cyber awareness. Like street smarts, it takes a heightened level of awareness to navigate the Internet and protect your personal information. Sophisticated phishing campaigns are developed to trick people into giving up account information. Educate your employees and your children about the dangers of hacking. When in doubt, simply don't open it.

We’ve entered into an era where private hackers are employing high tech tools and techniques that only governments had access to in the past.

The good news is that it is feasible to protect your own accounts and those of your business. Initially, formulating a strategy requires planning -- the rest, as they say, is all execution.