This is the third post in our Identity Theft series. While our previous two posts gave a primer to identity theft, explained how it happens, and the many security vulnerabilities that enable it – we will now be taking a more personal approach.
In this post we are going to talk about you, and the online habits that could put you at risk of identity theft. Not only will we be revealing the kinds of suspicious activity that may indicate you have been targeted by a cybercriminal, but we will discuss why a strict password policy is crucial, and how to implement one. Finally, we have a simple self-test for you, to help evaluate your own personal cyber security.
So that you are not tempted to ignore the contents of this page, let us first show you just how serious data theft is.
Major company data breaches have occurred over the past decade, where even the most cautious user could not have avoided having their information leaked. Yahoo alone has suffered data breaches that have exposed the personal information of all of its 3 billion accounts. When we add in other major data breaches of the last three years, the total comes to over 4.3 billion cases. Dropbox, eBay, and LinkedIn were among the high-profile targets.
Any of these data breaches could have exposed a user’s personal data to a cybercriminal, which could then be used as the initial seed of an attempted identity theft. Remember, it only takes one piece of critical personal information in the hands of a cybercriminal to put you at risk personally.
There is also a very useful online tool you can use to check if your identity has been stolen. If you have been the victim of some of the circumstances above, you could use this site to check if your identity is available for criminals to take.
Although identity theft primarily takes place online, many of the initial signs that you have been targeted will become apparent in the real world. Indeed, the symptoms of identity theft often do not occur until after the data breach has already occurred. The cybercriminal will have spent some time selling your identity on, and then the perpetrator of the crimes will carry them out. All of the suspicious activities below could indicate that you have been the victim of identity theft. If two or more of these things happen, you can be certain you have.
We have all been guilty of using a weak password at one time or another. If you use multiple websites regularly, it can be very tempting to use the same simple password for every site to make things easy. Of course, this is a terrible idea in relation to your online security. Establishing a strict password policy is your first line of defence against hackers. Always make sure that:
If you have not been using such a password policy, and you start to notice strange activities such as those mentioned in the section above, change your passwords using such a policy ASAP.
We have a few recommendations for online tools that will ease this process for you and help to keep your data safe. First, a Password Manager is a very useful tool that will generate strong passwords and keep them safe for you, behind an encrypted barrier. There are many of these available on the web or app stores.
We have also found a guide for creating strong passwords that are easy to remember, by our partner Webroot, available on this link. These should be able to facilitate your job in keeping your data safe.
In this section we have a short identity theft self-assessment test you can work through, to discern your own personal level of risk. Answer each question with a yes or no.
If you answered no to:
14 or more questions – your Identity is in danger;
9 to 14 questions – a lot to improve;
4 to 9 questions – good, aware of the main risks;
3 or less – excellent, vigilant.
Always remember that you are the first line of defence when it comes to your own cybersecurity. Acting in a safety conscious manner at all times is the best way to deter cybercriminals and keep your identity safe from identity theft. Hopefully you are becoming an expert in Identity Theft. Our next blog post will tell you what to do if your Identity has been stolen, a question that we hear a lot from our clients. Come back next week to learn more!