Data Theft – The Growing Threat

Jun 23, 2016

The theft of information has been going on as long as humans have inhabited the earth and it was usually conducted under the act of espionage. Ancient civilizations discovered that the gathering of intelligence could provide a decisive edge over an enemy. For example, Sun Tzu (544BC – 496BC), the famous Chinese general, wrote of the importance of espionage in his book The Art of War. Of course, data theft has evolved considerably as technology has advanced. Moreover, it is being conducted by more than big governments.

Who is at Risk from Data Theft?

Anyone and any organization is at risk when it comes to data theft. When you opened your email today, it is highly likely that you had email in your spam folder that was an attempt at retrieving your personal data. It could have been an email that contained an attachment that would have loaded malware onto your computer. Or, it could have been something simpler, like an attempt at finding out some personal information about you so your passwords would be easier to crack.

Data theft happens all the time to organizations. Oftentimes, it is referred to as insider data theft. One example, as reported by BidnessEtc, is Morgan Stanley’s recent $1 million dollar fine for its lackadaisical protection of customer data. During the 2011 -2014 timeframe, an employee was downloading confidential customer records and putting them on his personal server at home. Disgruntled employees can do some serious damage to an organization and its reputation, especially those with IT skills.  The bad news is, it’s getting worse. Swimlane shared that there was a 38 percent increase in security breaches from 2014 to 2015. Criminals have sent a message to organizations worldwide; we’re coming, so you’d better be prepared.

Protect Yourself from Data Theft

Really, being educated about the preventative measures you can take to avoid being a victim of data theft/identity theft is step one. Read up on the types of attacks that criminals are using to obtain what they want. And, read up on the different tactics you can use to avoid becoming one of their victims. Knowledge is the key here.

One of these preventative measures is using caution when you are in your email. Never download an attachment or click on a link in an email sent from someone you don’t know. Even when it’s someone you know, be cautious. And, never give out any passwords or personal information over email. Criminals are very skilled at deception and will employ different tactics in order to obtain information from you over email.

Use strong passwords. A strong password should be at least eight characters long and contain upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. It should look something like this… H@ck3r$$uck. I know that’s more than eight characters, and that’s good; the longer, the better. And, try to avoid using the same password for everything. Think about that. If a criminal cracks your password somewhere, they’re going to try that password for you everywhere.

Protect yourself in public. An RFID wallet is a must nowadays. Criminals use RFID readers to scan you when you’re standing next to them and you don’t even know it. The next thing you know, you’re have charges on your credit card statement that you know weren’t your purchases. And, make sure you use a password, gesture, or some other method to unlock your phone. Think about all of the data stored on your phone that a criminal can use to his advantage. It wouldn’t hurt to look into a remote wipe capability for your phone as well.

These are just a few ways to protect yourself from data theft. There are so many other methods that criminals utilize to steal data, it will be the focus of a future post.

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