What Hackers Can Do with Your Information and What You Can Do to Protect It

 

 

Threats to cyber security are more common than ever. It’s not just the big brands and corporations that are the target of hackers. Even private individuals such as yourself could fall victim to data breaches and other pressing cyber security matters. At this day and age, data and information are more important than ever. For hackers and other cyber criminals, these are the keys to profit.

According to Breach Level Index, over 14 billion data records have been stolen since 2013. That’s double the human population. Private individuals, such as yourself, should be responsible enough to understand the value of keeping your data safe. This data includes the contacts and addresses of your acquaintances. Just what can hackers do with the data they can access?

 

Access To Financial Information

The stolen information and data, is very commonly used by hackers to access the financial information of the victim. Phishing scams, the latest form of electronic fraud, are basically an attempt to steal someone else’s information – and have now become very common. They are usually carried out by text or email messages, sent out by fake accounts and manage to steal financial data such as: credit card numbers, CVCs, and bank account titles. That is why you should be very vigilant when it comes to opening links or answering forms online.

 

Contacts Can Be Used For Scams

Once the hackers manage to access the contact details of your friends and family, they can use them to scam you and others. Hackers will use, in their caller ID,  telephone numbers or emails found in your address book. This way, they can easily pose as someone you know, taking advantage of your close relationship with friends and family members, to get what they want. Another critical matter is that they could steal your identity and use it to scam people on your contact list.

 

Personal Information Can Be Sold

Believe it or not, personal information can be sold on the black market, and they don’t sell cheap. The price of personal information varies, depending on what is being sold. According to research, passwords are the most expensive piece of data, valued at $75.80, followed by medical records at $59.80 and Social Security numbers at $55.70. The cheapest pieces of information are name and gender, which are valued at $2.90. Since personal information can also be sold, hackers will now target private individuals as well. Most people keep their guards low as they don’t expect to become priority targets of hackers, over companies and brands.

 

These are just some of the common reasons why hackers do what they do. The bottom line is that they are doing it for profit. For them it’s a source of income, and as security becomes tighter, they become more fierce with their attacks. Luckily, there are numerous tools you can use to check if your data or device has been compromised. One good example is Have I Been Pwned, a free to use service, that helps you determine whether you have been the victim of a data breach simply by giving your email address.

 

Is Keeping Your Data Safe, Easy?

The truth of the matter is that keeping your data and devices safe from threats of cyber security is relatively easy. However, any small holes in your defenses can be quickly used in the advantage of hackers. As such, you will need to follow a few guidelines to keep your defenses at their highest, at all times.

  • Always use complex passwords and change them regularly. Your password will need to include uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. Using password managers for your accounts is also a good practice.
  • Brush up on the latest scams and viruses at all times. Doing so will help you identify a potential threat.
  • If you are going to make an online transaction, make sure that you are only doing so with a trusted retailer. This will keep your financial information safe at all times.
  • Whether you are on your computer or smartphone, you will always need to keep your software and operating systems to their latest versions. Updates released by developers often have extra security features for your device.
  • Never forget to turn on your firewall and antivirus. This is the most basic line of defense you have against malware.
  • Some apps and websites ask permission to access your contact info. Before clicking on that “Allow” button, make sure to do your research on the platform you are giving access to.
  • Phishing emails have started to look more authentic but there are still ways to determine when an email is a scam. First of all, check the email address of the sender. Some scammers, often fool users by making the email look very similar to the real thing. Also check for grammar lapses within the body. Lastly, avoid clicking on links that use URL shorteners as these might redirect you to dangerous websites.
  • Social networking sites, such as Facebook, also try to access your contact information. Luckily, you can easily turn permissions off. 
  • While on the topic of privacy policies and permissions, always make sure to check an app or website’s privacy policy as well as their security safeguards, before signing up. Do not be a willing victim to potential security threats. 

You must never underestimate the value of cyber security. However, always make sure that websites and apps you use to manage your personal data (password manager, email client, contacts app and business card scanner) all come from companies that have strict privacy and security policies in place. 

  • In the case of email clients, providers such as Hushmail, ProtonMail, Tutanota and CounterMail, offer just that.
  • For your contacts and address book, a solution you should try out is Covve. Simply put, Covve is a smart contacts app, designed privacy and security as a top priority. It is dedicated to protecting your address book. Covve will never share personal data and is frequently audited by third parties on security and privacy. 

Data and other personal information are basically a currency for hackers. You must always be vigilant as they are always figuring out new ways to access your data or devices. On your end, being careful and alert is the best protection you can offer. Keep in mind that it’s not only your data that can be compromised from your device, but also that of your friends and family. You may also find these articles helpful in protecting your data and privacy:

How to stay private on the web

Best practices to keep your contacts book safe

How to manage who can see your LinkedIn contacts

How to turn off data sharing with third party apps in LinkedIn

How to control my Facebook profile privacy

How to control LinkedIn profile privacy

How to control permissions for apps or games I’m using via Facebook

How does privacy work with sites using Facebook login