Data Security: 4 Ways You’re Leaving Yourself Exposed

Jul 14, 2020

In cooperation with our partner.

The Verizon 2020 Data Breach Report released recently shows some alarming figures. A staggering 86% of data breaches are now financially motivated and attacks on web applications have doubled from the previous year. But perhaps the most disturbing finding of all is that 22% of data breaches are still the result of human error.

Clearly, there’s much you’re doing on a daily basis that’s making you vulnerable to these constant threats. And understanding these simple lapses could make a huge impact on your data security. Here are 4 of the most common ways you could be letting yourself down.

#1 Your digital footprint

It’s nearly impossible to live without a digital footprint anymore, even if you’re living in self-imposed isolation with no human contact. All your daily activities are leaving behind a considerable data trail—whether you’re getting your daily dose of news in the morning, tracking your biometrics, browsing RPGs, or leaving a review on the latest Marvel movie. And let’s not forget social media.

These are all lucrative opportunities for anyone who takes the initiative to start tracking your entire life story. And this data can trade hands hundreds and thousands of times.

Data is hot property and a thriving global industry. And many data aggregators are building massive databases and using them to provide useful services. Equifax, for example, is using its databases to provide credit reports so you can get a mortgage. Nuwber is creating millions of profiles to provide people search services to help assure your safety.

Problems arise when your digital footprint is used for malicious activities such as identity theft and financial fraud. And these are easier to execute more than ever before since people today leave an ever-increasing data trail in an excessively sharing culture.

So, what can you do? The easiest way to get an idea of your digital footprint is to search your name on Google. This will give you a snapshot of the surprising amount of information out there, helping you to understand what you’ve been sharing with the digital world for all these years.

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Once you check the search results, determine which information could compromise your privacy and safety and start removing them. There are companies such as DeleteMe that can help remove your data from data aggregators and various other sources. But the truth is, it’s almost impossible to completely remove all traces of already published data. So, the best remedy is to avoid excessive sharing and prevent new data from reaching the digital space.  

#2 Device security

How you use and manage your devices could leave you vulnerable to a data breach. Malicious websites and downloads are one of the biggest threats to your device security, whether you’re downloading free games or even streaming movies.

Malicious browser extensions could be tracking all your activities unknown to you. And your email attachments could launch ransomware that could encrypt and take over data files stored on your devices. This year alone, top brands like Honda, Chubb, and Cognizant have all become victims of ransomware attacks.

However, there are several essential steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Keeping your devices and files password-protected can especially protect them in the case of physical theft.

Avoid storing confidential and critical data on your computer. Regular software updates can protect your devices against vulnerabilities, and a reputed anti-virus guard can help create a safer digital experience against cyber attacks.

But it’s not just about your computers and laptops. Mobile devices such as your phone and iPads are equally vulnerable to security infiltrations. Third-party apps are one of the biggest threats to mobile devices. These can download malicious files and track your activities in real-time. They can even hold your mobile data hostage with a ransomware attack. So, avoid downloading unnecessary apps and be wary of app permission requests.

#3 Internet connections

With the rising trend of remote working, doing your reports while sitting at a coffee shop and checking your emails on the go have become commonplace.

But Wi-Fi connections can be easily infiltrated, even when you’ve guarded them with passwords. And it’s not just hackers, but governments and even your network provider could be monitoring your activities unaware to you. So, you could never know who is tapping into your home Wi-Fi connection and sifting through your data. Virtual Private Networks or VPNs can help you sidestep this issue by concealing your activities, making you virtually unidentifiable.

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Public Wi-Fi networks leave you even more vulnerable. Typing those important emails, sharing files, and even checking your bank accounts while sitting in a coffee shop could leave you exposed to a multitude of cyber threats. Hackers could easily use an unsecured Wi-Fi network to monitor activities of other users on the network and could even launch a malware attack.

Using your mobile data is the best solution to avoid the hazards of Wi-Fi networks. These are secured and can prevent hackers from easily infiltrating your data. But if you must use public Wi-Fi for whatever reason, use a VPN to shield your activity and turn off data sharing.

#4 Disposing of your devices

How you dispose of your devices—whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, or a gaming console—could expose your sensitive data to strangers.

Many people are in the habit of either selling or giving away their old devices once they go for an upgrade. But data traces left behind are often forgotten.

Even if you delete your files from an old laptop, it still can be retrieved by anyone with the right tools and knowledge. Therefore, it’s important to sanitize them to permanently remove any traces. The best method of sanitizing will depend on the device. For example, specialized software can help prevent others from recovering data from the hard drive of your laptop.

The bottom line is, many of these security lapses are preventable and could be easily addressed with the right steps and some extra caution. After all, protecting your data is your responsibility and should not be left in the hands of anyone else.

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