How Public is Your Private Data?
How easy a target are you making yourself for hackers?
You may think you’re being careful with your online data. You take all the recommended precautions and carefully configure your privacy settings on Facebook, go by a pseudonym on Twitter, and only connect with people you’ve actually met in person on LinkedIn.
You may think that keeps you relatively safe from hackers, stalkers, and identity thieves. But you’d be surprised at the information even a casual Internet user armed with some basic Google search skills can piece together about you.
Have you ever used the same username or pseudonym at more than one website? How many online accounts and profiles have you abandoned that are still online, giving out information about you? Did you ever delete that old MySpace profile?
Using just basic online search techniques, any interested party out there can put together a lot of revealing information about you and the details of your life.
Savvy identity thieves can use your information to file false worker’s compensation claims, steal your Social Security benefits, get fake passports, put their medical bills in your name, give your information for their speeding tickets or crimes, or steal money from your bank accounts. And these types of thefts can be much harder to spot than you’d imagine.
It may seem like a small risk, but the rise in identity crime makes it clear that all of us are potential victims. Identity theft is now the most common consumer complaint in the United States by far, numbering over 10 million cases a year. That’s an over 20% increase from last year, with a new case occurring every 2 seconds.
What online accounts and websites are giving out your personal information, and how can you protect yourself while still taking advantage of the benefits of social media and modern technology? Check out the details below to learn how and why to keep your information safe online.
How Public is Your Private Information?
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn – nowadays it seems there are too many social media sites to keep track of.
Small components of your online identity can be pieced together to build a larger, more invasive profile.
And in the wrong hands, who knows what will be done with it?
Your Social Media Identity
If you openly share your details on various social media sites, it’s easy to find out your location, background and interests.
- Home town
- Current city
- Relationship status
- Events attended
- Political learnings
- Location via Tweets (using Twitter’s geolocation feature)
- Location via check-ins (such as Foursquare)
- Interests and opinions
- Locations you visit
- Location of your home (if you or others check in)
- Email address
- Phone number
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Home address
- Location of your home(if you happen to post a lot of pictures from there)
- Locations you visit
Your Public Records Identity
Even if you don’t use social media, your details can still be found online.
Data brokers are companies that buy and sell your private information. Some examples include:
Many data brokers aggregate personal information on one page. Simply type in a name and general area, and the basic details you require are a click away.
What Information Can Data Brokers Get?
- Phone numbers
- Information on new and old social media sites
- Background checks – police reports, arrest records, etc.
- Reverse lookups
- Email address
- House address
- Value of house
- Name of family members
- Estimated net worth
- Social media profiles
Tracking Your Identity: One Step Further
Using the basic information above, people can use other online services to gain further details about your life.
Google Street View
- Typing in an address found via social media into Google Street View can bring up an image of your house.
- Just from this image, you can see that this person is a satellite customer and that the house has a burglar alarm.
- Reverse image search engines can find where an image came from, how it’s been used and where other versions of it exist.
- It can be used to easily match social media profile photos with ‘anonymous’ dating profile photos.
- Googling your name can come up with surprising results if others have been writing about you unknowingly.
- Exchangeable image file format (EXIF) data embedded in photos can reveal the GPS coordinates of where the image was shot.
A Hacker’s Paradise
Armed with sensitive information, hackers can easily crack common security questions used by a range of websites:
- Mother’s maiden name
- Name of first pet
- Name of the first street you lived on
- Name of the city in which you were born
- What was the make and model of your first car?
- What is your maternal grandfather’s name?
And once hacked, risks you’re vulnerable to include:
- Identity theft
- Personal safety
- Cyber stalking
- Phishing emails
- Computer viruses and spyware
Be mindful of what you post – what goes online stays online!
Divulging too many personal details online can make you an easy target for hackers. Protect your identity by keeping your private life private, and minimizing the information you share online.
- Get Safe Online – getsafeonline.org
- Is 192.com Britain’s most invasive website? – pcpro.co.uk
- Intelius – intelius.com
- Zabasearch – zabasearch.com
- Anywho – anywho.com
- Spokeo – spokeo.com
- Pipl – pipl.com
- The best and worst of people search websites – abine.com
- Peoplelookup – peoplelookup.com
- John McAfee Arrested in Guatemala for Entering Country Illegally – abcnews.go.com
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