We live in a digital age — a jungle of laptops, touch screens, video games and Bluetooth. Social media, online banking, and the worldwide web have made life increasingly convenient, and increasingly exposed.
So exactly how secure are our identities? Are our digital habits endangering sensitive information? If the digital age is a jungle, identity thieves are like hungry tigers.
What is “identity theft”?
In short, it’s impersonation; hackers need to pretend they’re you to crack open a digital safe of private information.
“In the physical world, it’s as simple as someone claiming to be you,” said Dr. Deva Henry, a professor at Regent University’s Cybersecurity Institute. “In a simple way, that’s what identity theft is: it’s someone posing as you. … It’s impersonating online.”
He said once a hacker effectively becomes “you” and gets your email account, they can find and reset passwords to other accounts, like your:
“Unfortunately these days so much happens online that you’re expected to provide that information online,” said Henry.
Some hackers go a step further.
According to Henry, if hackers “don’t grab it from you, they make you give it to them.”
“You willingly give them information, and they just entice you into giving it,” said Henry.
One of the most devious methods these thieves use is a “phishing attack.” Hackers will learn your interests and then send virus-laden ads, emails, and popups that appeal to those interests.
Say you’re into soccer. You talk about it on social media; you have a soccer blog; you share pictures of yourself at a soccer game; you make your Twitter handle “soccerfan458.” A phisherman (yes, it was not a real phrase until now) could observe your behavior and send you an email crafted around and geared toward your interests — in this case, soccer. You click on it, and it opens your computer up to a “Trojan horse” virus.
If you know a shred of Greek mythology, you probably know what’s next.
The virus gives the hacker access to your activity and shows them everything from the sites you visit to what you type on your keyboard and where you click. If the hacker wants to access your bank account, they simply wait for you to login. Chances are, you won’t find out you’ve been infected until you’re checking out at the grocery store.
If you’ve been reading attentively, you may already be suffering from mild paranoia. But before you scramble to check your bank account and delete your Facebook, hang in there. There are some simple, preventative steps you can take to keep those hackers at bay and dodge the proverbial tiger.