Not a day passes without news of data thefts that put all of us in danger. A recent report says that over 5 billion data records were breached in 2018. You can be pretty certain that mine and yours are among those. For example, on Valentine’s Day the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel revealed that names and email addresses of about 6 million users had been stolen. In November 2018 Starwood Hotels, owned by Marriott whose system was not breached, announced the theft of over 500 million guest records. The data from Starwood’s reservation system was said to include items like name, phone number, email address and passport number.
News about stolen data can be frightening. There are, however, ways to defend against this type of theft. Powerful ways to protect individual computer users do not necessarily require technical knowhow. They merely require a little information and some attention to one’s internet environment.
There are many tools that individuals may find useful, to be covered in succeeding articles. First, a few words about how data theft is occurring at present.
Cybersecurity resource site https://www.stopthinkconnect.org/
Phishing is a constant threat. Phishing is the attempt, usually by email, to get individuals to divulge personal information. Most dangerous are the ones that ask users to provide usernames and passwords. Never, ever, respond to an email that requests personal information even if it appears to be from a reputable source.
The Internet of Things provides easy access to many smart homes. Most appliances, large and small, are now connected to the internet and manufacturer security is notoriously weak. Purchasers need to immediately change the manufacturer-supplied password and continue by reading the instructions to ensure that protection like automatic software updates is in place.
Fakes of all kinds attempt to steal usernames and passwords. Fakes range from look-alike sham websites to false Facebook log-in pages to misleading emails. There are ways to detect the fakes but many of them are quite good and require that users pay some attention to what they are reading.
Finally, consumers need to recognize that any time data is stored it becomes a potential target for cyber criminals. There are ways to minimize the storage of sensitive data.
New technologies like artificial intelligence are leading to smarter attacks on a larger scale. There are, however, low-cost ways to protect yourself that do not require technical skill. All of them do require that computer users pay some attention to what’s going on around them.
In future articles I will provide details on how consumers can protect their personal data, and consequently their identity, from theft attempts.