No One is Safe from the Data Breach Epidemic

A data breach is a word netizens frequently hear nowadays. What harm could a million-dollar company losing some of its mundane customer data do to people who don’t even use the internet much? A housewife in the mid-30s got blackmailed, stating her morphed photos would get leaked publicly, compromising her husband’s budding political career.

Investigation showed a breach that happened in Timehop, a mobile app, that led to this blackmail. Timehop app collected old photos from social media accounts. A breach in their security in July 2018 exposed nearly 21 million users, crucial data like name, email address, and phone number. The criminals that hacked the app used the date of birth and other information like location to get that housewife’s photos and sabotage her husband’s reputation.

Nobody is safe from data breaches whether we rely on the internet for our survival or not. From Google and Facebook to our government, everybody puts us under surveillance. If you genuinely feel you are powerless to fight against the mega-companies, here are few tips to hide your digital footprints. You can erase most of your browsing tracks using these tricks. Further, these steps will also enable you to stay safe from the prying eyes of cybercriminals.

Tips from Frank Abagnale

Does the name Frank Abagnale ring a bell? Steven Spielberg fans and Leonardo Di Caprio lovers would not have forgotten the movie “Catch me if you can”. The film was shot based on the life and experiences of a notorious identity thief – Frank Abagnale.

He is now working along with the FBI and Microsoft to design fool-proof security systems. Frank Abagnale gives a few practical tips to keep you safe from a data breach in his latest book “Scam me if you can.”

  • Never upload your straight-looking, professional photo on social media. Always use a side pose or hard to edit photos in the social media profiles. It will prevent hackers from using your picture in fake licenses, passports, etc.
  • He also suggests using your altered birthday and birth location in social media if you use it only for fun. Disclosing the date of birth and place is enough for most hackers to track crucial information about you. According to Frank Abagnale, telling these two critical details on Facebook is equivalent to giving out 98% of your data.
  • The third important tip is to use minimal apps on your mobile phone. Have a separate phone to use social media, edit photos and play games. Keep the entertainment apps in your official phone minimal as they will have bank transaction-related apps.

Take the word of the wise and follow his tips to prevent disclosing this critical information about you to an unknown cybercriminal.

Hiding Your Digital Tracks

You search for a juice glass, impressed by the beautiful photo of the milkshake on the recipe page. Suddenly, your Facebook page, Google page, and every other website you visit start showing several types of juice glasses to buy.

Some of us wonder whether we stumbled into an alternate universe filled with juice glasses. Others wonder how quickly these ad companies act and how hard they try to make us buy. Some enjoy browsing through the ads while a tiny bit of concern about “how they know I want a juice glass” lingers at the back of our heads.

Most of us comfortably neglect it, attracted by the 50% discount we found for a juice glass set we don’t need. None of us wonder how those ad companies got the data or whether we are getting tracked online.

The truth is we are tracked. When we search for the juice glass through an app, Amazon or Google, they collect the data and sell it to the ad companies. These companies immediately start bombarding us with offers we cannot deny.

Who gave the permission for Google and Amazon or any other app to track our data and sell it to others? Nobody, and at present, there is no legal way for us to deny these apps from accessing our data.

It is ok if we browse about juice glasses. What if we search for something confidential, something sensitive like a mental illness or an intimate problem, how many advertisers will know about our issues? The best way is to hide out digital tracks, and here are a few steps to do it effortlessly.

  1. Install the Ghostery plugin in all your browsers. It prevents the hackers and giant corporations like Facebook from tracking what we are browsing.
  2. Avoid using the Google search engine and use DuckDuckGo. Use Tor browser instead of chrome. They do not track your data without permission.
  3. Always open the bank pages, insurance pages, and other pages which require personal details filling in incognito mode.
  4. Avoid “Sign in with Google” and “Sign in with Facebook.” Have a different password for every service and use an efficient password manager like Enpass or RoboForm to create complex passwords.
  5. Always login with a specific email account and password. Use multiple email accounts for different services and sharing with friends.
  6. Never allow the browser to save the password. Be sure to log out of online payment apps like GPay as they do not have a session timed-out option.
  7. Use a paid email service with a high-class encryption feature as your official email id. Disclose this email account details only to your office, bank, insurance, and other vital services.
  8. Try to open finance-related pages on a computer with good security software instead of a mobile app.
  9. Use apps like Token Virtual to mask the credit card details when you use them online. The data of the credit card will be automatically encrypted, creating a virtual duplicate, preventing hacking.
  10. Do not enclose your private details to others offline. Check the identity of the people you meet in clubs and bars using the Nuwber online tool. Share your details with them only if they are legitimate.

Staying safe online is possible if you take a little extra effort and ensure you follow some mandatory steps. Ensure you use the right apps and plugins and stay away from services tracking your footprints. Never underestimate the value of your private data, as it is worth millions of dollars.