The headlines of our time share a common refrain; our personal data has been stolen and a multinational corporation with an entire team dedicated to preventing these attacks can’t tell us why.
Thousands of Canadians’ data is compromised every day, whether it’s their membership information at The Bay, their more-valuable banking information at CIBC or a business account with Dropbox. In 2018 everyone either has been, or knows someone who has been the target of a cyber attack.
So what’s the allure? How much is your personal information really worth?
“It’s all worth something,” says Dr. Natalia Stakhanovaa, University of New Brunswick’s innovation research chair in cyber security.
And the conversations we’re having about privacy must go beyond passwords and short-lived access to a credit card number.
“The video, audio and pictures surrounding you when the computer is just open and running … think about that. Even that information costs money,” Stakhanovaa said. “You don’t only need to only worry about your banking information, but also if people are taking pictures of you and selling those pictures.”
According to Experian, credit card numbers and memberships are bought and sold for $20 on the dark web. From our driver’s license and social security number to the free online memberships we belong to and our banking information and street address. All of this information, including images of you in your kitchen, whether accessed as a whole or in parts, has a price.
The U.S. data analyzing firm reports that details on your subscriptions run between $1 and $10 on the dark web, while a passport number can yield up to $2,000. Your license data will be sold for $20 and people pay $1 for a SIN.
When your personal data and information is compromised, the bits and pieces are sold on an underground market that illegally trades on the information plucked from the trove of data each one of us carries.
But, because this isn’t a new threat to Canadians, many have become complacent and most are carrying 2000’s era privacy tactics, Stakhanovaa said. The reality is, it’s a more sophisticated game now and we all give up heaps more data than we did in 2002.
“I think we are naive in some way. I hear and see all of the time people saying, ‘I don’t have anything worthwhile, so what is a hacker going to get from me?’ … What people don’t realize is just the fact that we exist and we’re human beings is worth a lot on the underground market,” Stakhanovaa said adding that it’s a “huge misconception” that just high-profile individuals are targeted.
We’re among our most vulnerable when we log into public WiFi, allowing even inexperienced hackers a direct line into our personal data. Doing a little banking while you wait for your flight? The free WiFi at major airports is convenient but depending on how valuable the data within the apps you open while killing time at your gate, you could be unwittingly handing hackers your passwords. Even the little camera at the top of most laptops is fair game and Stakhanovaa recommends we all cover the lens immediately.
The need for better literacy around cyber security should begin in the classroom, Stakhanovaa said. The threat is not going to disappear and there are simple tools and information that will help corporations and individuals keep their information private.
“Just like we all agree to learn basic things to me, this should be taught in schools, right along with ‘Don’t talk to strangers’,” Stakhanovaa said. “Be vigilant with your information, think before you post anything and get comfortable with a password manager; just common sense things.”
Steal these privacy tips
- Cover up your computer video lens with a piece of opaque tape, especially if itís used in your home as hackers scour the photos for valuable information and prey on photos or videos of us when we’re at our most vulnerable. Phishing tactics work here.
- Yes, changing your 10-digit password every three months can be a nuisance, but password managers like LastPass, Keeper and 1Password help.
- Don’t do your banking or any other private tasks while connected to public WiFi. Whether you’re in a coffee shop or piggybacking on your neighbour’s service, you’re at risk as WiFi creates a near-seamless access point to the devices of every individual logged on.
- If you think you’ve been hacked immediately check all of your accounts and change your password. If you think your banking information is safe, monitor it for ........... a few weeks to be sure.
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