The internet has transformed how we interact with various industries worldwide and changed how we do things. We can now do many things online, from banking to shopping and even medical appointments.
While the advent of the internet has brought about some welcomed change, it’s also created issues, particularly around cybersecurity and privacy for its users. Thanks to the pandemic, companies and organizations worldwide have demanded better connectivity as more people work from home. However, in 2021, cybercrime skyrocketed.
According to Check Point Research, organizations surveyed in their 2021 study were found to experience about 925 cyberattacks per week globally. While it’s unclear what caused these cyberattacks, human error and the lack of good password practices are often prominent suspects. After all, humans create at least 100 different accounts and passwords in their lifetime, so we often reuse our passwords out of convenience.
Password hygiene isn’t the only thing we tend to overlook when using the internet. In fact, there are plenty of different ways we often give up our data without really knowing or realizing it.
To help you better understand how our data is often at risk, we’ve created a list of the various types of technology and software we interact with almost daily that could store and distribute our data.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. However, not many people consider the type of information they’re giving up each time they post something on a platform. Whether it’s information about birthdays, employment history, and the like, we consistently give up more data than we think.
Cybersecurity experts encourage people to keep their social media profiles private and limit the information they share in their profiles’ “About Me” section to make it harder for hackers to piece together information about a victim.
Food delivery apps and services are known to leverage big data analytics to stay competitive and understand their customer’s preferences. Each time we order food or groceries from an app, we give these companies information on what we like and don’t. We’re also telling them how often we need certain items.
Food companies and other service providers can then sell this data to their vendors, leveraging this information by creating ads that target the customers they want.
Location information is something we often give up without realizing. Our phone is an absolute location beacon through navigation apps, the weather app, and social media platforms. This interactive New York Times article shows how easy it is to piece together location data about a person through an app on their smartphone. The app could track how long a person was at their doctor’s appointment, how far they went while hiking, and the address they stayed at overnight.
Like food delivery apps and services, streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime leverage user data to determine what programs and services users might like. These streaming providers can then market new series and films and target selected users.
Video conferring services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meets gained significant popularity during the pandemic. Zoom users grew from 10 million in December 2019 to over 300 million in April 2020.
While this is excellent news for Zoom, they’re also prime targets for cybercriminals and other malicious third parties. In April 2020 alone, multiple Zoom privacy issues and security breaches were reported, including a bug that made it easy for hackers to take control of a user’s microphone or webcam.
To protect yourself from potential hackers, always log off and close your video conferencing apps when they’re not in use. Make it a point also to cover your webcam when not in use. If you need to use your laptop’s webcam, you can purchase these small dedicated covers to shut them off.
Have you ever looked up a purse on an online catalog only to get served ads on a completely different website?
Here’s the thing, online shopping sites regularly track what users look at to remarket the product back to them, hoping that it’ll lead to a purchase.
For security enthusiasts, webcams can be suspicious pieces of equipment for a good reason. Webcams can be hacked easily, and hackers usually enjoy turning them on and recording their victims. Besides recording their victims, hackers may implant malware or viruses, preventing their victims from being able to use their webcams. Victims will then have to pay to get their webcams unlocked. To make matters worse, hackers can do all this remotely.
To prevent this, be careful of the browser extensions you’re downloading and limit the use of your webcam where possible.
Health apps like calorie counters, period prediction apps, and workout trackers are great for those who want to stay on top of their fitness game. However, these apps come with a slight caveat: they always track your data.
Period tracking apps have been coming under fire for allegedly selling their users’ data recently. While it might seem harmless, this information, when paired with input from other social media sites and internet footprints, might allow hackers to paint a better picture of their target and find ways to exploit them.
10. Review sites and forums
All it takes is for you to leave a review of a restaurant or write a comment on a forum to expose your interests and, potentially, your location. While reviews and comments can be helpful for others online, they can also reveal our whereabouts.
Now that you’re more aware of how your data could unknowingly be distributed, you’re on track to becoming a lot more careful. Unfortunately, as long as we have smartphones and employ smart gadgets, it’s impossible not to have a digital footprint of some sort. However, we can always take steps to safeguard our privacy and protect our personal information as best as possible.