When was the last time you Googled yourself? Today, Google handles over 3.5 billion searches a day and you’d be surprised how many of them account for people searching their own names – or criminals searching their victims’ names.
To the regular internet user, using multiple password protected platforms to manage personal data may seem harmless, but to cyber criminals it’s a treasure trove. On average, Americans use around three sites to manage their data from social media to financial to medical information. From there comes targeted phishing attacks, taking advantage of our anxieties and fears to seize our other accounts, more sensitive information, or worse.
- 35% of adults online have had sensitive information compromised; 15% have had their own social security number compromised
- 29% have had an unknown person gain access to email or social media accounts
- 14% have had their identity stolen and used to open a loan or new credit cards; 6% have had an imposter even try and fraudulently claim a tax refund
Some of the most common internet scams are also among the most simple, blending digital expertise with a deep understanding of social engineering. Catfishing in particular is a newer and popular method; a scam in which criminals will make a fake social media account or, more often, a fake dating profile in order to trap a victim. Catfishing can be as innocuous as teenage cyber bullying or as dangerous as financial scams, and the more preliminary data a perpetrator has on their victim, the more damage it can do. Red flags for catfishing include a refusal to meet or video chat, providing only professionally shot photos and never in real time, and expressions of deep feelings early on, especially in the context of dating site scams. Protecting yourself is as easy as a little common sense; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never send money, especially wired overseas
- Seek a second opinion from friends and loved ones to bring an impartial look at the situation
- A simple Google search of your match’s name and reverse image search of a photo can be very revealing
It all starts with a Google search to trigger a chain of events leading to a targeted and highly personalized cyber attack. Today, nearly half of Americans feel their data is less secure than ever and yet we are sharing more online than ever before. Smart cyber criminals know exactly where to look to gather a bit of info from here and bit of data from there and combine it to paint a clear picture of their victims, putting pressure on us users to understand the detailed intricacies of our own privacy settings online and the standards we hold our information and personal content to.
- Choose privacy setting with the least amount of data sharing. This prevents posts from showing up in search results
- Delete old or unused accounts to avoid your information being sold as an asset when a site goes under
- Monitor your location, tracking, and GPS sharing options. Often times these are set as active by default, effectively sharing your location with every post essentially alerting criminals that you are not at home.
It’s time to take responsibility. This infographic details the state of cyber security, the risks we run from oversharing online, and how we can control our own information so no one else can.
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