As users of technology we need to take responsibility in helping secure our personal data, because if we don’t those assets could be accessed without our knowledge/permission and even worse our identity could be stolen. Data leaked through an unknown source can be used to extort and threaten you. You could be forced to purchase new phones, new phone plans, delete social media accounts and change email addresses in order to help stop the threats.
The use of data helps make our lives more convenient and streamlined which likely means the proliferation of online data and devices are here to stay. There is one best practice that each of us can apply that will help personal data stay more secure – only share on a need-to-know basis.
For example, let’s say a friend receives an email asking them to complete a short survey for a chance to win a gift card. Excited for the opportunity to win, they click the link and begin to fill out the survey. The first question asks for their first and last name. Not so bad, they think, they tell their name to people all the time. The next question asks for an email address — easy enough. The question after that asks for their full date-of-birth so they can receive a coupon on their special day. The intentions are good, so what harm will there be? Next, they ask for their home address, so they receive mail coupons. And finally, they are asked to create a free account. And now the true scam begins. Unfortunately, this friend didn’t watch the password security video so, they reuse the same password on every account. Just a day later one of their other personal accounts is compromised as a result of the password gathered through the scam website and more personal data is now leaked online.
Information beyond name and email such as birthdate and address should not be provided freely as a best practice – you should only provide this information to trusted companies with which you have an established relationship. Surveys should not need that level of personal data. And if you are asked for that level of personal data via a survey, you should be extremely cautious.