From phishing scams to ransomware attacks, threats to your data have been rapidly rising. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering the dramatic pace that technology is embraced in literally every facet of life and work. Today, digital data seems without bounds. Nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day in cyberspace.
At a personal level, you’re creating a whopping amount of data yourself, from emails and personal messages to photos and tweets. And this dramatic surge in data is attracting countless unscrupulous actors, vying to monetize personal and business information at any cost.
Putting your data at risk
Your laptop, smartphone, tablet, smart TV, and fitness trackers can all come under threat at any given moment. But it’s not just data stored in your personal devices that are at risk. Businesses are privy to your information for various reasons.
For example, Equifax will store your details to generate credit score reports, so you can obtain a loan. Nuwber could collate personal data to help you find a lost family member using their people search services. Similarly, many other businesses are storing data, sometimes for their own personal gain without much benefit to the user.
And they could also come under threat with a hacking attack, despite the strength and scale of their security infrastructure.
For example, in 2020, around 5.2 million guests of the Marriott Hotels had their personal data put at risk. Nine million EasyJet customers faced a similar plight. This led the budget airline into an £18 billion class-action lawsuit for compromising a host of customer data, including credit card details.
According to Verizon, 71% of data breaches have financial motives. But it’s not always that simple. For instance, criminals could use your personal information to carry out various malicious acts under your identity. The point is, when you think your credit card data is at risk, you can always cancel and order a new one.
But losing your identifiable information could have far-reaching consequences that are hard to reverse.
The impact on businesses could be equally severe. IBM estimates the average cost of a data breach to be $3.86 million.
But the implications are not just limited to financial costs. For instance, the damage to reputation and credibility might not always be so easy to assess.
Protecting your data
There are many ways you could face a data breach. Sometimes, it’s accidental and could be the consequence of a careless oversight such as leaving behind your laptop in a taxi.
But most data breaches happen due to a deliberate and targeted attack. And these can take many forms. For example, a ransomware attack could hijack your computer in exchange for ransom.
Phishing attacks are also common, claiming for nearly one-third of data breaches. Cybercriminals often use them to impersonate someone known to you and could thereby persuade you into disclosing confidential information.
The bottom line is, criminals could use many forms of attacks, both direct and indirect, putting your information at risk. So, is data privacy at all possible? While there’s no way for you to completely eliminate data breaches, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the threat.
1. Avoid public Wi-Fi.
If you’re in the habit of working in cafes, then you’re likely compromising your data security through public Fi-Wi networks. These can give easy access for cybercriminals to watch your every move, whether you’re logging into your emails or checking your bank accounts. So, it’s always safer to open up a hotspot and avoid public Wi-Fi altogether.
2. Use a VPN.
A virtual private network or a VPN can shield you from malicious individuals by routing your activities through different third-party servers. It can provide you with anonymity and safeguard your privacy.
3. Password protection.
Following password etiquette is essential for data security. From files and devices to personal accounts, you need to protect all your data sources with strong passwords. Avoid using the same password for several accounts and choose multi-factor authentication wherever possible.
4. Keep backups.
Your backups will be a lifesaver in the event of a data loss, theft, or a hijack. So, take regular backups and store them securely in a separate location.
5. Use anti-virus protection.
Protecting your devices with a reputed anti-virus guard is essential to avoid malicious attacks. It can help schedule automatic scans, prevent you from accessing untrustworthy websites, scan your email attachments, and alert you about any impending threats.
6. Update software.
Updating software could be time-consuming and may seem a hassle, especially when you’re busy. But cybercriminals are getting smarter by the day and finding new ways to exploit security vulnerabilities. So, running your devices with outdated software could leave you exposed to new data threats. Using updated versions with bug fixes and security updates can help you overcome these.
7. Watch out for email links and attachments.
One of the easiest ways to infect your devices with malware is through email links and attachments. According to a Verizon report, 94% of malware is delivered through emails. So, verifying the source of your emails is essential before clicking on links or downloading attachments.
To wrap up
In today’s digitally hyperconnected world, protecting data is a challenge for both individuals and organizations. Cybercriminals continue to adopt sophisticated techniques to infiltrate security infrastructure.
So, no one’s immune to data breaches, and avoiding them could become increasingly difficult. And the cost of a breach could be multi-faceted with consequences that may last long into the future.
But detaching yourself from technology may no longer seem a viable option either. So, protecting your data should become a priority more than ever before.
Sometimes, simple steps can go a long way to prevent human errors that could leave you and your data vulnerable. And preventative steps with the support of technological tools could help safeguard your data privacy against a malicious threat.