With most of our lives now being online, it’s understandable if you’re afraid of hackers stealing your personal information. But what exactly can they do with it? How much damage can they cause? Most importantly, what can you do about it?
Here, we’ll teach you what you’re up against, how important it is to safeguard your personal information, and what you can do to protect yourself.
We checked various online safety sources to understand how hackers steal information and what they do with them.
We also looked at the latest cases of hacking, especially since hackers are getting more innovative with their methods.
Below, we share the most important piece of personal information you should keep safe.
We also sought expert insights on how to protect your personal information. So keep reading and don’t miss out on crucial security tips, leaving your information vulnerable to hacking.
What can hackers do with your stolen personal information?
When hackers get access to your information, it can lead to damaging consequences.
There are a lot of things they can do, including:
Sell it on the black market
There are many underground markets where personal data is bought and sold.
This data can include everything from credit card numbers and bank account details to email addresses and login credentials. Hackers can make a lot of money by selling stolen data on these black markets.
Commit identity theft
Once a hacker has your personal data, they can use it to commit identity theft.
This includes opening new credit accounts in your name, taking out loans, and even filing for bankruptcy using your information. This can ruin your credit score and leave you with massive amounts of debt.
Sell it for marketing purposes
These companies will then use the data to send you targeted ads and promotional material. In some cases, they may even sell your data to other companies that will then contact you with their products and services.
Post it online
In some cases, hackers will simply post your data online for anyone to see. This is known as doxing, and it can be extremely damaging to your reputation.
Not only will your personal information be publically available, but identity thieves could also use it for their crimes.
Hold your data for ransom
In recent years, ransomware has become a popular method for hackers to make money. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data and then demands a ransom to decrypt it.
In many cases, the only way to get your data back is to pay the ransom, which can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Apply for credit cards or loans
Another common way for hackers to use stolen personal information is to apply for credit cards or loans in your name. This can damage your credit score and leave you with a lot of debt. In some cases, it may even be difficult to apply for new lines of credit.
Intercept your tax refund
If a hacker has your Social Security number, they can file a tax return in your name and intercept your refund. This can leave you owing money to the IRS, and it may even result in criminal charges.
Takeover your online accounts
If a hacker has your login credentials, they can take over your online accounts. This includes email accounts, social media accounts, and even online banking accounts.
Once they have access to your accounts, they can change the password and lock you out. They may also use your account to send spam or phishing emails to your contacts.
How much is your personal information worth?
The value of your personal information depends on a lot of factors, including:
The data stolen from people in the US, for example, is worth more than data stolen from people in other countries. This is because there are more opportunities to use the data for financial gain in the US.
The type of data stolen
Certain types of data, such as credit card numbers and bank account details, are worth more than other types of data. This is because criminals can use them to commit fraud or theft.
How many people were affected
The more people who were affected by the breach, the higher the value of the stolen data. This is because there’s more potential for profit when there’s a larger pool of victims.
The sooner the data is used
The sooner the stolen data is used, the higher its value. This is because there’s a lower risk of being caught if the data is used soon after it’s stolen.
The value of your personal information can vary depending on these factors, but it’s generally worth a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.
In some cases, however, the value of the data can be much higher. For example, a cybercriminal can sell a database of stolen credit card numbers for thousands of dollars on the black market.
How do hackers steal your data?
There are several ways that hackers can steal your data, including:
1. Hacking into your computer or mobile device
If you don’t have strong security measures in place, hackers can easily gain access to your computer or mobile device.
Once they’ve gained access to your device, they can quickly access any sensitive information that you’ve stored on it. In addition, they can also install malicious software that can allow them to spy on your activities or even control your device remotely.
2. Phishing emails
Phishing is a type of email scam where hackers send fake emails that appear to be from a legitimate website or company. These emails often contain links that lead to fake websites where you’re asked to enter personal information. Hackers can then use this information to access your accounts or commit fraud.
Malware is a type of software that’s designed to maliciously gain access to or damage a computer system. Once installed, malware can allow hackers to gain control of your system, install other programs without your permission, and even steal sensitive information.
One of the most common ways that malware is spread is through email attachments. Hackers will send out mass emails with an attachment that appears to be benign but actually contains malware.
When the user opens the attachment, the malware is automatically installed on their system. If you receive an email with an attachment from someone you don’t know, it’s best to delete it without opening it.
Another way that malware spreads is through so-called “drive-by downloads.” This happens when you visit a website that’s been infected with malware. The malicious software is then automatically downloaded and installed on your system without your knowledge or consent.
4. Data breaches
A data breach is when a hacker gains access to a database of personal information.
This can happen if a website or company doesn’t have strong security measures in place. Once the hacker has access to the database, they can steal the personal data of everyone who is contained in it.
Any time you connect to the internet, you’re at risk of hackers stealing your data. Hackers can access your data in many ways, but one of the most common is to exploit unsecured connections.
When you connect to the internet using an unsecured connection, such as public Wi-Fi, your data is transmitted in an unencrypted format. This means that it can be intercepted and read by anyone who’s listening in on the connection.
Hackers can use this information to gain access to your accounts or to commit fraud.
5. Dumpster diving
While most people are aware of the dangers of sharing personal information online, few consider the risks of disposing of that data in the physical world. However, hackers can and do steal data by dumpster diving, the practice of rummaging through trash in search of sensitive information.
One of the most common ways to obtain this information is by raiding recycling bins for discarded paperwork. This can include anything from bank statements to medical records. Once obtained, criminals can use this information to commit identity theft or fraud.
Protecting yourself from hackers
The best way to protect yourself from hackers is to be aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate them. Some of the things you can do include:
1. Use strong passwords
One of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to your data is by using brute force attacks to guess your passwords. To make it more difficult for them, use strong passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
2. Use a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your internet traffic, making it more difficult for hackers to intercept your data. When choosing a VPN, look for one with military-grade encryption and a no logs policy.
3. Be careful what you click on
Hackers can use phishing emails and malicious websites to infect your computer or mobile device with malware. To protect yourself, be careful what you click on, even if it appears to be from a legitimate website or company.
4. Keep your software up to date
One of the best ways to protect your computer or mobile device from malware is to keep your software up to date. This includes your operating system, web browser, and any apps you have installed.
5. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring you to enter a code that’s sent to your phone in addition to your password. This makes it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts, even if they have your password.
6. Install antivirus software
Antivirus software can help to defend your computer against malicious software that can damage your system or steal your personal information. While there are many different types of antivirus software available, it’s important to choose a program that’s right for you.
Some factors to consider include the level of protection you need and the price you’re willing to pay. Once you’ve selected a program, be sure to keep it up to date to ensure the best possible protection for your computer.
7. Avoid unsecured connections
When downloading files or accessing sensitive information, always make sure you’re doing so on a secure connection. Unsecure connections leave your data vulnerable to interception by third parties.
To ensure a connection is secure, look for https:// in the URL and a padlock icon in the browser window. If either of these is missing, don’t proceed. In addition, avoid using public Wi-Fi networks when accessing sensitive data.
These networks are often unsecured and easy for hackers to access. Instead, use a cellular data connection or connect to a VPN before accessing any confidential information.
8. Use a firewall
A firewall is a critical piece of security software for any computer user. It works by monitoring the data that flows in and out of your computer and blocking anything that doesn’t meet certain criteria.
This can help prevent viruses and other malicious software from infecting your system. Additionally, firewalls can also help to block unwanted traffic, such as ads or pop-ups.
While most routers come with a basic firewall enabled, it’s important to make sure that it’s properly configured. Additionally, you may want to consider installing a software firewall on your computer.
This can provide an additional layer of protection and give you more control over what’s allowed to pass through.
9. Clear your browsing data
Whenever you browse the internet, your web browser saves certain information about your activity. This data includes the websites you visit, the items you search for, and the ads you click on.
This information can be useful in helping you to retrace your steps or pick up where you left off. However, it can also be accessed and used by others without your knowledge or consent.
That’s why it’s important to clear your browsing data regularly. By doing so, you can help to protect your personal information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
In addition, clearing your data can also help to improve your browsing experience by eliminating clutter and freeing up storage space.
So take a few minutes to clear your browsing data regularly. You’ll be keeping your personal information more secure and making your browsing experience better at the same time.
10. Destroy sensitive data
When it comes to data, you can never be too careful. There isn’t one piece of information that you can consider to be more important than others.
It’s equally crucial that when you no longer need something that contains sensitive data, you destroy it properly. Paper documents can be shredded, and digital files can be deleted using special software.
When it comes to digital files, however, simply deleting them doesn’t mean that they’re gone forever. To be sure that a file is truly gone, you need to overwrite it with a new file. This process will write over the old data, making it impossible to recover.
There are many different software programs that you can use to destroy digital files, and they vary in terms of cost and features.
When choosing a program, make sure that it’s compatible with your operating system and that it meets your needs. With the right tools, you can be sure that your sensitive data is truly gone.
Hackers are constantly finding new ways to steal personal data. As such, it’s important to be aware of the latest threats and take steps to protect yourself. By following the tips above, you can make it more difficult for hackers to access your data.