Why It's So Important to Protect Your Personal Information
Article by Vanessa E. Seward, Outreach Manager at Strictly Digital
Originally published on Cyberwise.org
In today's world, online transactions are becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Between social media platforms and online marketplaces, the internet is becoming a virtual thief's dream, with countless identities to steal. Social media platforms continue to ask for more personal information in order for users to gain access. This information can easily be skimmed by a hacker, and later used to access personal accounts fraudulently. Further, many social media sites are intertwined and easily accessible with one simple log in, connecting the data thief to every bit of personal information.
Online marketplaces are also a part of day to day life. From clothing purchases to grocery orders, people are able to buy anything online from their favorite stores. To facilitate quick transactions, online retailers are saving customers' credit card information. If a thief gains access to an account, private bank account information can easily fall into the wrong hands. It is important to have online security to help protect users from identity theft. One way to protect against an attack is by using counteractive technology like VPN protocols. To find our more about these protocols, check out this article by
Surfshark, an online security company that provides up to date security technology to stay one step ahead of would be identity thieves.
What Can You Do?
It is one thing to keep a purse or wallet protected at all times from physical theft, but how is a person supposed to know when a virtual, online thief is trying to steal information? The truth is, the more technology evolves, the more clever identity thieves become. Currently, there are several online schemes designed to trick people into giving up personal information. Some of these schemes can include:
Phishing Emails - A phishing email is an email that is designed to look like it is coming from a reputable and trusted financial source. There is usually a link contained in the email that encourages a person to enter private information. The email and link however are fraudulent, and the person ends up giving private information to an unknown source.
Weak Passwords - Be careful of passwords that are connected to valuable personal information. Avoid anything that involves a social security number, birthday, address, or phone number. Make sure that passwords contain a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. If possible, try to use websites that require dual authentication to enter the site, These often include a private password as well as a PIN or code texted to a personal phone number.
Malware - Technically speaking, malware is any type of malicious software that a person unintentionally downloads to a personal computer. This program then sifts through the computer data and files, searching for PII. Any saved bank accounts, tax records, or personal information is at risk if malware has been inadvertently downloaded to a computer.
Unsecured websites - Before entering personal information into any website, always check to make sure it is secure. A good way to check for security is to make sure the website begins with "https://" instead of "http://". These websites have an added layer of protection to make sure credit card information or bank account numbers stay secure.
Increase in Data Theft
Sadly, the more social media and online marketplaces become a part of day to day life, the more
frequent occurrences of data theft become. Between 2005 and 2010, online credit card theft increased by 50%. Not only is this problematic for the individual that had his or her information stolen, but the financial institutions responsible for protecting credit card information loose about $150 to $200 per stolen credit card.
But data theft does not just stop at individual theft. Large scale breaches are on the rise too. In fact, last year there were almost 1,300 different
breaches that impacted major corporations. Compare this to only 200 large scale breaches in 2005. Identity thieves are quickly learning that hacking into large corporations can give access to countless account numbers and credit card numbers. Not only do these breaches affect the individual company, but each breach can impact hundreds of thousands of customers. Equifax, Target, and Dropbox were all victims of online data theft on a large scale in recent history.
It can be hard to understand online data theft since there is not a physical opportunity for a person to steal a wallet or purse. It is more important than ever before to protect personal information from would be thieves skimming the internet searching for personal information. With a heightened vigilance and enhanced security measures, it is possible to still interact on social media and in a digital marketplace while keeping information safe and secure.