When secure documents or personal information have been illicitly acquired and distributed, whether through hacking, social engineering or other nefarious means, it is called a data breach. Unfortunately, as these types of incidences become a more common occurrence in daily life, it is important that the general public is informed about what it means exactly to have one’s data compromised. By taking an active approach in knowing how much of your data is vulnerable to identity thieves, you can significantly lower your chances of becoming one of their victims.
Because so much personal information is now stored on Internet-enabled computers and devices, it is easier than ever for miscreants to gain access to unprotected systems. Data breaches are largely carried out by criminals looking to make a financial gain in some way. In many of these cases they are trying to acquire personally identifiable information, such as social security numbers, birth certificates, medical records and financial documents in order steal someone’s identity for their own personal benefit.
While most breaches of data security are generally carried out by crooks looking to cause harm, there is also a subset of experts, affectionately known as called white-hat hackers, who do the opposite. While they also try to compromise systems in order to expose security holes, in these cases they are wanting to see the issues fixed before the bad guys get to them. Some of their methods may still fall within a legal gray area, but most large companies and government agencies will look the other way if there was no malice intended.
What the hackers find on a system and how useful it is to them widely varies. For instance, they probably won’t find access to a whole lot of money sitting on a college student’s computer. However, even the most cash-strapped among us is still a potential target, as a few dollars here and there adds up over time. When their victims are faceless entities, it makes it even easier for identity thieves to ruin their lives.
Preventing your digital data and sensitive information from becoming compromised can seem like a losing battle if you don’t know how to protect yourself. Technology is growing more advanced every day, and the methods that criminals are using becoming more complex and tricky. While no plan is fool-proof, there are some precautions that one can take to make it harder for these corrupt people to wreak havoc on your financial standing.
It is important to be vigilant about keeping any sensitive documents out of harms way. One way to look for any strange inconstancies is to obtain a regular credit report. You can find a list of the best credit report sites here. While there are several websites that purport to offer one for free, the service provided by AnnualCreditReport.com is the most well-known and reputable, offering a legitimate way to get three free reports over the course of a year.
Keeping your passwords secure is also another way to keep your data safe. If you use an easy-to-guess combination or haven’t changed it in a while, your login info can easily become the key to your undoing. It is impossible to know at times if there is somebody out there has obtained your passwords from a third-party hacker. Even if they haven’t logged into your account yet, your credentials could be sitting in a text file on a criminal’s computer just waiting to be used. Change your password every so often to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.
Staying informed about the latest malware and phishing techniques will also add an extra layer of security to your digital life. By keeping a keen eye on the websites that you visit, the software that you install on your devices and the information that you share with others online, you will lower the possibility of being taken for granted. There are many malicious parties out there posing as legitimate services, and it is imperative that you research any company that you share sensitive data with beforehand. These criminals aren’t all digital either, and many of them are still using the postal service to send shady letters to unsuspecting victims.
When it comes to protecting what’s yours, you have to be extremely diligent. With all of the recent advances in technology it is becoming easier-than-ever to take care of our responsibilities online, while putting our data at risk at the same time. It is a good idea to safeguard your devices and computers as if they were your home. You would change the locks on your house if you knew that a criminal possibly had a copy of your keys, and the same should go for systems that contain your data.