Internet and information. The more we expose ourselves, the more information can be taken from us. Beware of stolen identity.
The advent of the Internet has been a phenomenon of great importance for mankind; being one of the most useful tools we have at our disposal. Therefore its use allows us to share a large amount of information with people from anywhere in the world; something that a few decades ago would have seemed an impossible feat. However, it also carries some risks, such as stolen identity.
However, the Internet itself is not what it was a few years ago. Time has allowed the uses given to the Internet to change and become better and more efficient; also faster and easier to use, being incalculable the amount of information that is uploaded every day. This data is housed in thousands of existing companies that also operate digitally.
Without realizing it, we, the users, generate this sea of information in which we enter every day. Just by being connected; each person on the planet that enters the Internet from any device leaves a footprint within the computing envir onment.
And our IP address is not the only thing that can give us away; as in every email and password we create and enter on a website, we are providing first-hand information that can be traced and linked back to us. What if someone were to take this information? Can our identity be stolen? In this post, we will describe how criminals can take advantage of our information for their malicious purposes, and the catastrophic results this can yield.
What is identity theft? What do criminals seek to steal?
Identity theft includes the appropriation of someone’s name, which can occur through either real or virtual means. To do this, the offender seeks to assume someone’s identity to access resources or assets that belong to that person, either to steal from him or to deliberately harm his personal life. Impersonating someone can lead to serious consequences if you do not know how to act in time in these cases.
To achieve their goals, cybercriminals seek to appropriate a variety of personal data, among which we have the following:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Driver’s license number
- Credit card information
- Tax File Number
- Social security number
- Passport information
- Personal Identification Number (PIN)
- Online account user name and login details
In the digital environment, they can steal personal identity information by infiltrating organizations that manage large amounts of personal data and hacking into computer systems. Once these criminals get what they need, they can perform specific actions that end up harming the person whose identity is transgressed.
Here are some examples:
- Opening bank or credit accounts linked to the person.
- Filing a false tax return and collecting its refund.
- Making online purchases, sometimes with the intent to sell those goods on the black market.
- Claiming your identity to shift liability for medical expenses.
What are the risks of identity theft, and what methods are used to do it?
Today, many internet sites we access, demand that we have a personal identity. Everyone has a username and password associated with an account on social networks, online commerce platforms, and e-mails. To access its services, we have to fill out a form where we provide personal information.
The risk is that anyone who knows that username and password, in addition to accessing our personal information, can impersonate us, which seriously compromises socially and financially the security of the person to whom that user belongs.
Thus, the increasing amount of personally identifiable information being handled and stored in computer databases increases vulnerability risks. Personal devices (laptops, smartphones, etc.) are the equivalent of a virtual playground for cybercriminals because a skilled hacker is able to steal electronic data without authorization.
At the same time, there are people who register their email users and passwords on their devices, which serves as a starting point to access their accounts and steal more and more information, which can be sold on illegal websites or used as an extortion mechanism.
Phishing and other methods: stolen identity
One of the most common methods used by cybercriminals for identity theft is Phishing, where the hacker creates a fake website that exactly replicates an existing one; so, that the user enters their data on that website, in order to obtain that information and proceed with identity theft. Also, the approach to the user is usually via e-mail, where the criminals send an e-mail pretending to be a bank or other institution, leaving a fake link that deceives the user. It is also widely used within corporations to steal information about the company they invade.
Another method is pharming, which occurs when a virus-infected browser is hijacked without the user’s knowledge. Typing a legitimate website URL into the search bar redirects the user to a fake site that looks real. There, cybercriminals collect any personal information the person types into the website.
There is also malware, where scammers try to trick the user into downloading malicious software that can attack their device and reveal personal information to steal an identity.
How to avoid identity theft? Is there a way we can defend ourselves?
In the world of cybersecurity, prevention is something vital for any user who wants to protect themselves from an attacker. Rather to wait for an attack or invasion to happen, is important to adopt a behavior that will reduce your vulnerability in the cyberworld. So, we will give you some tips to prevent your integrity and identity from being violated by a hacker.
- Do not provide financial or personal information by email or telephone.
- Always use secure passwords containing numbers and special characters to avoid breaches.
- Use anti-spyware software to protect against a type of malware that installs itself on the computer without the user’s knowledge and collects personal information.
- Be wary of email links. It is preferable to directly access your bank, credit card, or another website through your browser.