Data breaches. They have become more and more common over the years, with 2019 seeing over 4 billion records exposed in data breaches in the first six months alone. In many cases, users don’t find out they have been part of a breach until months later when companies come out publicly and disclose this information. By this point, a lot of valuable information about you could have potentially been accessed and utilized without your consent. While keeping a tab of your personal information across the World Wide Web on a daily basis is a lot to ask, there are ways to find out if your personal data has been hacked and decrease your chances of having your data compromised.
What information are hackers looking for?
Someone wanting to know all about you when it comes to a date—fine, but when it comes to hackers, not so much. Hackers want to find out more about you solely due to malicious or selfish intent, but what are they looking for?
- Credit card/payment information
- Your personally identifiable information (although this is the least of their wants and can easily be obtained since a lot of this information is public)
- Personal documents – insurance records, tax details, driver’s license, passport, Social Insurance Number
What do hackers do with this information?
There are two types of hackers—those who seek to serve you, and those who seek to take from you. Those who seek to serve you are less of a threat, but shouldn’t be cast aside. These hackers dig for information about you that you may or may not have consented to share, and utilize it without your permission. These hackers aim to use specific information to gear marketing material towards you—beyond what they are allowed to. For example, you may have chosen NOT to share your information with a certain site and you may opt-out of them selling your data, however, hackers can take the information you explicitly gave direction about, and turn it around.
Hackers who aim to take from you are more worrisome. These are the hackers that go after payment details, credit card information, and personal documents. Why? Money talks. While the web may seem like a large place, we only see a small amount of it. Beyond what we can access is the deep web or what some call the ‘black market’. Hackers who have obtained information about users can sell this information for a high-sticker value to those willing to purchase. This information is often sold to those who want to: steal money from these users (via credit card or payment details), steal the identity of these users, or use the identity of these users to obtain something they wouldn’t be able to under their own identity.
How do I know if my data has been hacked and what do I do?
Companies are legally responsible for reporting any breaches that impact their consumers’ data, but there is no definitive time for them to report these breaches. A large bank may face a significant breach but the consumers may not find out until months later. If you are worried about where your personal data lies and the possibility of being hacked, here are a few things you can do:
Keep track of WHERE your data is – the internet has a lot to offer. Seriously. It’s tempting to sign up for the latest social platform or for a new online shop offering deals that seem too good to be true. It’s important to keep track of WHERE your personal information resides. When signing up for anything that requires you to give up your personal information, just ensure you keep a tab of what you signed up for. Programs such as 1password, dashlane and others can help you easily store this information in one place.
Be wary of WHO you’re giving your personal information to – not only is it important to track where your data is, but it’s important to be diligent of WHO you are giving your information to. It’s easy to sign up for sites you randomly come across online, however, it’s a good idea to do a quick background check to scope out the validity of a site prior to just giving them your info.
Be cautious of WHAT you are giving up – if you create a password on a retail site and they ask for your payment information off the bat, are you willing to give it to them? If a new social site requires a vast amount of personal information about you, are you okay with handing it all over? It’s important to understand what information you are giving out, and your right to opt-out of sharing this data. With Killi, you have the ability to share as much or as little information you want. Not keen on sharing your postal code? Don’t want people to know your date of birth? You can opt-out of sharing this info. This allows you to keep a better tab of the information you are ACTUALLY sharing.
Understand your privacy settings and rights – the CCPA and GDPR aim to help consumers better control their personal data, and go as far as to penalize sites that fail to do so. Sites should be transparent about what they want to do with your personal data and give you the option to opt-out of sharing and/or selling said data.
If you believe your data has been hacked, there are actions you can take right away. Sites such as haveibeenpwned can help you effectively check if you’ve been involved in a data breach via your email. If your email is associated with a breach, it’s important to find out WHAT information has been hacked. Contacting the source of the breach can help you better find this information. You can also put a stop to any accounts that may have been breached.
While it’s hard to know for sure IF your information has been hacked, it’s important to remain vigilant about your presence on the world wide web. Being cautious and aware when it comes to your data can help decrease your chances of getting caught in a data breach storm.