Steps to Stay Ahead of Risks and Protect Data Privacy

January 27, 2022
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Technology has advanced our world in countless ways. Every day we bank, shop, conduct business and exchange photos and messages with family and friends online. While digital devices and services offer great convenience, they also pose risks to our data and privacy as the separation between our offline and online lives converges. Data Privacy Week comes around every Januaryand serves as an important reminder of the importance of protecting our privacy and safeguarding personal information — something we should all be aware of 52 weeks of the year.

Last year, data breaches reached an all-time high of 1,862, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) 2021 Annual Data Breach Report, which is more than 68% increase over 2020. While the record volume of breaches is concerning, what is also notable is that this year 1,600 of the total 1,862 compromises were a result of cyberattacks — indicating that data breaches will continue to grow in scale and sophistication in the future.

As companies work to put in place more defenses to safeguard the customer data they hold, it is also important that individuals take steps to protect their security, privacy, and identity information.

How can I protect my personal data?

There are many steps you can take to protect your privacy and personal data. To get you started, here are three key tips to keep in mind:

1. Consider limiting the private information you share online

In a recent survey commissioned to 2,000 consumers, 73% of respondents said they did not trust social media companies with their data. With news headlines reporting over 1 billion leaked records from Facebook & LinkedIn profiles in 2021 alone, it is increasingly difficult for people to secure their privacy and data online.

When posting or sending information online, you may want to consider how much information you feel comfortable sharing. In the case of the LinkedIn and Facebook breaches in 2021, the combined leaked information from online profiles included phone numbers, physical and email addresses as well as personal and professional details.

 Additionally, when shopping online, for example, it’s common for companies to ask for your birthdate for promotional offers. Think twice before you share your personal data. Consider why a company is requesting information and what they might do with it before you provide it. If a store asks for your birth date, driver’s license or phone number, remember that declining is an option.  

2. Check your account and application permission settings  

It’s also a good idea to check your account security settings and customize your controls for all your online accounts and devices.

In the case of social media accounts, almost 1 in 4 people (25%)* have their Facebook profile settings open to the “Public” – meaning anyone can view and collect personal details from the account. This is particularly concerning as people often use personal information as their account login passwords that can also be found on their profiles. 

For example, 60% of people use their birthday, 30% post names and information about family members, and 47% list their hometown; all of which are often used as account passwords* Attackers can easily scrape this information from social media posts and attempt to use this information to log in to accounts or attempt identity theft.

If you are using applications on our mobile device, you can manage your apps by deleting, disabling, or changing their privacy settings — which will reduce an app from collecting data. Also, look for any other third-party applications that you may have granted authorization to your social media profiles in the past. In the event any of these other applications are breached, it is possible they could expose information from your social media account.

3. Understand what personal information may already be leaked and take action

Lookout’s data shows that 80% of consumers have had their emails leaked on the dark web, 70% have had their phone numbers compromised, 10% have had their driver’s license leaked and 7% have had their Social Security Number exposed online.*

It’s important to remember that the occurrence of a data breach does not necessarily translate to your data being misused. However, a data breach is a leading indicator of potential identity compromise, so it’s critical to act quickly to protect your information.

You can start by using Lookout’s free email scan tool to get a report of any data breaches that may be associated with your email and online accounts. If your email has been leaked, it’s important to change your password immediately. For an added layer of protection, enable two-factor authentication (like Google Authenticator) to protect your accounts. Two-factor authentication helps protect your account even if your account credentials are compromised.  

Finally, to protect yourself in the future, you can enable breach alerts and personal identity monitoring that will alert you immediately if your information is breached and provide steps to protect against account compromise or identity theft.

While there is no single solution to secure all digital information, individuals can begin to take key steps to protect their data and privacy, including being aware (and selective) about the data they share online, customizing their account and device privacy settings and by enabling breach and identity monitoring tools to protect their important information.

*Lookout commissioned a survey to 2,000 consumers in November 2021.

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