Do you think it’s not important to protect your personal information online, because nobody is interested in it? Or do you think that no one would bother to steal your details? Surely, digital life would be a lot easier if that was the case. However, none of these assumptions hold true. Below you’ll find a detailed explanation why you should protect your personal information and 7 easy steps to do that.
Criminals can make money with your details
Stolen personal details, like phone numbers, passwords, addresses, birth dates, etc. can be used for crime in many ways. For example, they can be sold to other criminals and be utilized for account takeover and identity theft.
Identity theft happens when someone uses someone else’s personal information for fraud or other crimes. In practice that means for example using a stolen credit card number to buy goods. Many stores offer billing, installments, or other credit-based payment methods, which criminals can use with stolen details. Identity theft can also result to someone taking loans in your name. What’s important to notice here, is that identity theft mostly is carried out with credit-based payments and loans. Therefore, your actual wealth doesn’t diminish the risk of becoming a victim.
Many might also think that they’re too old to be a potential target for identity theft. However, age isn’t a barrier. The personal details of the elderly can be used for fraud just as well. Also, seniors usually have better credit than young victims. And finally, the elderly might not be as well-prepared to detect and react to identity theft quickly. This gives criminals time to utilize their personal details more effectively.
Personal information is stolen in masses and with automated processes
Do you have a Facebook account? Do you maintain a network of colleagues and stakeholders via LinkedIn? Have you ever created an account to a webstore, social media service, or streaming service? Whenever you create a new account to a service, you are giving your personal information to that service. At minimum, your email address, and a password. And they can be stolen from the database of that service. In fact, it’s likely they’ve already been stolen.
Personal details are stolen in massive amounts at once. Billions of records of personal details are stolen each year from web services. It’s very unlikely, that hackers want to steal specifically your data. But they don’t have to. Because with a successful data breach they can steal the personal details from a million, or even more victims. For example, it was discovered in 2021 that personal details of over 500 million Facebook users were distributed freely in the dark web. And that’s just one example.
Neither do criminals usually target malware or phishing attacks. They are other ways to steal personal details. These kind of operations are typically highly automated. Distribution, data theft and spreading the attack to other victims often require no input from the criminal. It’s really nothing personal. Only business. But what’s important to understand, is that anyone can become a victim.
Your password is a weak link
Ok, so what if someone steals your username and password to, for example, Facebook? There’s nothing secret there.
It’s estimated that over 80% of internet users use the same password in many services. Some do that in all of the services they use. Criminals are well aware of this. So, when they successfully steal login credentials, they will try use them to get access to as many web services as they can. What they want to access is online accounts with payment details and data they can use for identity theft. Accounts for online stores usually have these.
This process is also automated. No criminal will spend their time sitting by the computer feeding millions of credentials one by one to a service. They use specifically made programs to do the task for them. And they do it very fast. If stolen login credentials have been used in other services, the criminals can access them.
A case example
The whole process could go something like this. Criminal A steals login credentials of a million users from a social media service’s database. The stolen data is sold in dark web to criminal B. Criminal B uses a program to feed all the 1 million usernames and passwords to Amazon webstore with astonishing speed. Of course, not all of the stolen credentials work there. But even if 1% of them do, criminal B just unlocked 10 000 accounts. One of them could be yours.
How to protect personal information online? 7 easy tips
Ok, so we can conclude that your details are valuable to hackers after all. That’s why protecting personal information and your identity online is important. Luckily, it doesn’t really require you much effort. Often just making things difficult for hackers can prevent identity theft. Read below for 7 easy tips on protecting personal data online.
1. Use strong and unique passwords
Passwords can be a weak link but using them correctly can help you protect personal information online. When you use a unique password for each online account, hackers can’t break into all of them after stealing one password. It sounds almost too simple, but it is extremely important if you want to protect your identity online.
Passwords also have to be complex enough. A simple password can be easily broken. So, the longer the password, the stronger it is. You can use a sentence and switch letters for numbers. But even better is if you make a password you can’t remember.
2. A password manager helps you use your passwords safely
A password manager is a really handy tool. With it you can save all your passwords, PIN codes, credit card numbers and other credentials safely. They are always available when you need them, and you will never forget them. All you need is one password to access the safe vault. Because the passwords are saved only in the device that the application is installed on (and any other device you want to link it with), they can’t be stolen online. A good password manager also helps you create strong new ones instead of old passwords. When you sign into online services, you can copy and paste passwords automatically from your password manager.
3. Use 2-factor authentication
Also known as multifactor authentication, it adds another sign-in requirement for your online accounts. It could be your fingerprint, or a one-time code sent in a text message. This way even if someone managed to steal your password, they’d still need to get your fingerprint or the one-time code to get to your details.
4. Get protection against malware and viruses
Personal information and passwords can also be stolen from your device. Malware can log your keystrokes and spy on your web traffic. Antivirus blocks malware and prevents them from stealing your information. Antivirus is crucial for protecting personal data.
5. Don’t give unnecessary personal information to web services
Many online services and apps ask you to give your personal information. The information is saved on their databases. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent criminals from breaking into these databases and stealing your data. However, you can withhold your information from these services, or give fake information. When there’s less data about you online, criminals have smaller chances to steal it. It’s always good to consider why the information is required in the first place.
6. Check if your details have already been stolen
F-Secure’s free ID Theft Checker tells you instantly if your personal details have been part of a data breach. If so, criminals could already have access to your details. The free service sends a report to your email address with detailed information about possible breaches. You’ll also receive instructions on how to protect your details. The service is totally free to use, and it doesn’t save your data. Try it here. >>
7. Use identity protection
Data breaches happen all the time. Even if you do everything right, it’s possible that your details still leak online. When a data breach happens, it’s important to act fast. Stolen details might not be used right away. That’s why quickly changing your password can prevent identity theft. But how do you find out if your data has been breached?
The answer is 24/7 identity monitoring. It alarmed when a data breach including your details is detected. F-Secure ID PROTECTION password manager does all that, and also works as a password manager. It’s included in F-Secure TOTAL cyber security package. TOTAL also includes an award-winning antivirus and an easy-to-use VPN to keep you private online. It’s all you need to stay safe online and protect your personal information. You can try TOTAL free for 30 days with no credit card required following this link >>