Stolen identities and the threat of lost data send shivers up the spines of cybersecurity professionals everywhere. The thought of a stranger having access to an array of personal information with bad intentions is fear-inducing.
For those not running mega-companies with piles of people’s data stored on servers, cybersecurity may not take up as much of their minds. However, your information is just as vulnerable and valuable as the data these places hold.
There are a lot of different types of hackers in the world today. Sure, some are primarily focused on breaking into personal information treasure troves like major corporations, healthcare systems, and government computers. Most spend their time on easier targets like individuals practicing unsafe internet behaviors or those who connect to unprotected public Wi-Fi.
Once your privacy has been lost to the skills of a hacker, it can be a challenge to restore your sense of security. Knowledge is half the battle, making awareness of what hackers do with your information and how to avoid them getting it in the first-place paramount.
What Do Hackers Do with Stolen Information?
It seems like a simple enough question, but hackers can do quite a bit with a consumer’s private information. The name of the “game” is identity theft – taking an individual’s personal information and using it fraudulently.
The moment a hacker gains the name, address, birthdate, and Social Security number of an individual the identity gets stolen. Once this information is available, any number of things can happen. Some individuals think that stolen personal information is “no big deal.” A hacker cannot just walk up to an ATM because they have a person’s name and address.
Once key information has been obtained, a hacker can use it for financial gain in other ways. With a name, address, and Social Security number, a loan or credit card account could be opened. Once the hacker has access to the account, they can run up enormous debt in your name.Hackers have become adept at using seemingly small amounts of information to their benefit. Fraudulent utility accounts, misuse of healthcare benefits, and even stolen tax returns are all results of identity theft.
There are other ways for hackers to use stolen information, like blackmail or ransoming the data. For individuals, identity theft is the most pressing concern when realizing their digital privacy has been compromised.
Protecting Yourself from Hackers
Hackers love to attack easy targets. This is a simple concept that you would do well to remember. Making it difficult to access private information in the first place is the best way to avoid the mess of a stolen identity.There are many simple ways to make life difficult for a hacker trying to access your information. Unfortunately, many people are naïve to the fact that these simple steps can go a long way toward personal cybersecurity.
Use a VPN
One major vulnerability that individuals bring upon themselves is accessing unsecured public Wi-Fi without protecting their devices. For example, if someone connects their Android phone to the wireless internet at a café, it could be open to attack by a digital predator.While not connecting at all is the best defense, downloading a virtual private network (VPN) to the device could also help. A VPN provides encryption from the Android phone to the VPN server, making it difficult for the hacker to spy on the information going out and back.
Avoid Strange Emails
Phishing is another way a hacker can attempt to get users to leave themselves vulnerable. An email that seems legitimate comes in asking users to click on a link and provide some personal information. Once this step is complete, hackers can perform assorted tasks to steal all kinds of information or even gain access to the device and associated networks.
Use Unique Passwords
Almost every article about personal cybersecurity says the same thing about passwords. The sage advice of using a different password for each account still holds true. There are many apps available now that makes this easier than ever. Users that use the same password for multiple accounts are leaving themselves vulnerable to major identity theft.
Be Smart to Stay Safe
Taking the time to consider these few simple steps could be the difference between data security and identity theft. Hackers prefer an easy target. Creating roadblocks like complex, unique passwords and a VPN can keep your digital privacy intact.