How Safe is Your Private Information? Here’s What You Should Pay Attention To

By  //  May 19, 2022

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Cyber-attacks have become rampant in recent years, presenting a growing threat to businesses, governments, and individuals, and making a potential victim out of every internet user. People these days are more or less aware of the risks and threats they expose themselves to when they navigate the digital landscape, especially since data breaches have been making headlines for quite some time now. 

Some might think twice before sharing their personal information with businesses and organisations, or take additional precautions to make sure their data is safe. But in the end, we all have to accept that cybersecurity risks are a given and learn to take the good with the bad.

That’s how most of us silence that little voice inside our head that warns us about our vulnerability every time we engage in sensitive online activities.

In a world where digitalisation has entered every aspect of our lives, taking advantage of all the perks that the internet provides while staying entirely risk-free is next to impossible. 

The good news is that you’re not completely powerless in the face of constant online threats. Learning about what cyberattacks entail, how they can affect your life, and the factors that influence cybersecurity can help you assess the safety of your private information and reduce the likelihood of falling victim to data breaches. So, here are a few essential aspects to keep in mind when you go online.   

Understanding data security risks and threats 

The first thing you should know about cyber-attacks is that they come in a variety of forms and thus they can impact you in many different ways. If you constantly use the internet and you share personal information online, chances are your data has already been stolen or used without your consent at least once. Should you get alarmed about it? That depends on the type of cyber-attack and the nature of the information stolen from you.

For example, if an organisation that holds your personal information was affected by ransomware doesn’t necessarily mean that your sensitive data was automatically compromised. The organisation might not be able to use it anymore and suffer a series of negative consequences due to the attack, but it probably won’t affect you in any way.  

If, on the other hand, the company’s data was stolen, a different type of scenario might play out. In order to assess the gravity of the situation, you have to know what type of data hackers stole from you. Having your search or purchase history stolen is not nearly as bad as having your social security number or credit card information compromised. 

Regardless of what caused the data breach to happen – whether it was the result of a human error, a hack, a cyber-attack, or a deliberate breach of terms on data collection – you should know that if you have suffered a data breach in the UK, you might be entitled to data breach compensation. If you can prove that the data breach caused you damage and loss, you can be awarded a certain amount of money to cover these damages.

Bad habits that increase the risk of data breaches  

However, it would be best not to end up in this position in the first place and not have to do damage control by actively keeping threats at bay. Unfortunately, a lot of people expose themselves to an increased level of risk through their own actions and the poor habits they develop while navigating the online landscape. Therefore, being aware of these frequent errors can help users develop healthier habits and reduce the chances of having their data stolen. 

One of the most common mistakes people make is employing the same passwords across all their accounts. Users not only have a tendency to reuse passwords, but the level of security of these passwords is also extremely weak, basically giving hackers easy access to all their personal accounts and information. 

Another aspect that a lot of users are not aware of is that many of the data breaches that happen could be easily prevented. Although tech companies are working hard to fix up security flaws and loopholes in their products and services that cybercriminals could take advantage of, not the same can be said about the end-users. Customers have the possibility to install security updates or get newer versions of the systems they run on their devices to address vulnerabilities but very few follow these recommendations. 

There’s also a wealth of products and services that can help users enhance cybersecurity and keep threats at bay. VPNs and antivirus systems are a dime a dozen, yet many people are still unaware of the advantages these services provide or consider them unnecessary. 

Last but not least, we have those users that are simply oblivious to basic safety practices on the internet such as thinking twice before clicking on a link or opening an attachment they receive from an unknown sender, refraining from using public Wi-Fi, or being more careful about the sites that they visit. 

Where does your stolen data go? 

A lot of people wonder what happens to their personal data after it gets stolen? Many assume that hackers use it for their own financial gain, which in most cases is true, but it’s not usually used by the same persons or organisations that were responsible for the breach. Most often than not, stolen data becomes a currency on the dark web marketplace

This market is brimming with all sorts of illicit goods, and buyers can use the data provided here in various ways, from fraudulent transactions to identity theft. You’d think that your personal data is worth a large sum of money, but the prevalence of data breaches and the high supply on the market places a relatively low price tag on it. 

The biggest takeaway is that as an active intent user it’s also your responsibility to address common vulnerabilities and keep your personal data safe. Making cybersecurity a priority and getting educated on the subject should become the norm in today’s digitalised society.