How vulnerable is your personal information? | Kiowa County Press

There’s a good chance some of your data has already been stolen, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore data breaches. WhataWin / iStock via Getty Images

Eric Smalley, The conversation

When you enter your personal information or your credit card number on a website, do you have a moment’s hesitation? A lingering sense of vulnerability sparked by the parade of headlines about data breaches and hacks? If so, you probably put those feelings aside and hit the submit button because, well, you’ve got to shop, apply for that job, file that insurance claim, apply for that loan, or perform one of the other sensitive activities that are taking place. online these days.

First of all, the bad news. If you regularly enter sensitive information online, it is likely that some data will be stolen from you somewhere at some point. According to one estimate, the average American has had data stolen at least four times in 2019. And the hits keep coming. For example, a data breach at wireless operator T-Mobile reported in August 2021 affected 100 million people.

Now for some good news. Not all hacks are the same, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The Conversation has assembled four articles from our archive that shed light on the types of threats to your online data, what data thieves do with your stolen information, and what you can do about it.

1. Take stock of your risk

Not all cyber attacks are the same, and not all personal data is the same. Has an organization that holds your information been the victim of a ransomware attack? There is a good chance that your information will not be stolen, although the organization’s copy of it may be rendered unusable.

If an organization you deal with had customer data stolen, what data did the thieves get? Merrill Warkentin, professor of information systems at Mississippi State University, writes that you should ask yourself a few questions to assess your risk. If the stolen data was your purchase history, it may not be used to hurt you. But if that was your credit card number, that’s another story.

Data breaches are a good opportunity “to change your passwords, especially at banks, brokerage houses, and any site that keeps your credit card number,” he wrote. In addition to using unique passwords and two-factor authentication, “you should also consider closing old, unused accounts so that their associated information is no longer available.”

2. The market for your stolen data

Most data breaches are financial crimes, but hackers typically don’t use stolen data themselves. Instead, they sell it on the black market, usually through websites on the dark web, for other criminals and crooks to use.

This black market is full of personal data, so much so that your information is probably worth a lot less than you think. For example, stolen PayPal account information costs $ 30.

Buyers use stolen data in several ways, writes Ravi Sen, associate professor of information and operations management at Texas A&M University. Common uses are the theft of your money or your identity. “Credit card numbers and security codes can be used to create clone cards to conduct fraudulent transactions,” he writes. “Social security numbers, home addresses, full names, dates of birth and other personally identifiable information can be used in identity theft.”

The T-Mobile breach revealed in August 2021 illustrates the challenges consumers face when hackers steal their information from large corporations.

3. How to prepare for the inevitable

With all of this bad news, it’s tempting to put your arms around and assume there’s nothing you can do. W. David Salisbury, professor of cybersecurity management, and Rusty Baldwin, professor and researcher in computer science at the University of Dayton, write that there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

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“Think defensively about how you can protect yourself from an almost inevitable attack, rather than assuming you will avoid damage,” they write. The key is to focus on the information that is most important to protect. At the top are your passwords, especially for banking and government services. Use different passwords for different sites, and use long – but not necessarily complicated – passwords, they write.

The most effective way to protect your data is to add another layer of security through multi-factor authentication. And rather than relying on websites to send text messages or emails with passcodes, which can be hacked, you should use an app or USB device that uses public key encryption, they write. .

4. Don’t make it easy for thieves

The risk to your personal information is not only to have it stolen from a third party. Phishing attacks can cause you to do the thieves’ work for them. These emails trick people into entering personal information and passwords on fake websites controlled by data thieves.

Turns out, you’re probably pretty good at spotting when something’s wrong with an email. Rick Wash, associate professor of information science and cybersecurity at Michigan State University, has found that the average person is as good as a cybersecurity expert at detecting when something is strange in an email message.

The trick to protecting yourself from phishing attacks is to remind yourself that phishing exists and could explain how you feel about an email.

“People who were good at noticing phishing messages reported stories of specific phishing incidents that they had heard of,” he wrote. “Knowing about specific phishing incidents helps people remember phishing in general. “

Editor’s Note: This story is a summary of articles from the Archives of The Conversation.

The conversation

Eric Smalley, Science + Technology editor, The conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

About Florence M. Sorensen

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