Experts say that the harder we lean into the digital age, the more we’ll need to worry about account security and keeping our private data safe.
The digital age has brought about a wealth of benefits, but those benefits are often saddled with their own risks. Last year, breaches from big names in multiple industries left millions of customers’ information—including email addresses, IP addresses, payment information, etc.—exposed to bad actors.
This trend of data breaches only has continued since then, with one of the more recent leaving 4.6 million Neiman Marcus customers impacted. Experts say data breaches aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon despite the push for consumer privacy changes.
“What we used to do physically is now done digitally more than ever—shopping, banking, work, and social connections happen through several devices, apps, and sites. Although the digitization of these activities has provided a wealth of benefits for most, it also creates security risks that criminals are taking advantage of,” Hari Ravichandran, the founder and CEO of Aura, a digital security firm, told Lifewire in an email.
The Looming Threat
Criminals always are looking for a way to get ahead at the expense of someone else, and thieves in the digital age are no different. Much like protecting yourself against physical threats, defending against digital threats requires you to be aware of the possible issues that might arise.
“Identity theft and fraud come in many forms, and there are many ways criminals can use stolen personal information online to commit fraud,” Ravichandran explained. “With only a Social Security number, cybercriminals can secure a loan or credit card in the victim’s name, drain their bank account, use their health insurance, claim Social Security, and more.”
Anytime you put your information into an online account, you’re putting it at risk because cybercriminals are always looking for a way to get access to your information.
It’s also important to note that not all companies handle the storage of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) the same. This is why groups like the Federal Trade Commission are working to impose hefty fines and penalties on companies that aren’t taking proper steps to protect your information.
Even if a company protects your information, it’s still more readily available than it has ever been. Unfortunately, this means bad actors may try to take advantage of it by looking for loopholes they can exploit in the service provider’s system. Often this can lead to the data breaches you keep hearing about in the news, like the T-Mobile breach back in August.
“Identity theft and fraud come in many forms, and there are many ways criminals can use stolen personal information online to commit fraud.”
According to Ravichandran, as long as this information is available in some form, cybercriminals will look for ways to access it and use it for their benefit.
Just because the digital age brings risks doesn’t mean you can’t do things to protect your information. While it can be tempting to set up an online account and then never update the details, Ravichandran recommends being more proactive with how you run your various online connections.
“A proactive approach is the best way to keep you and your family safe. This includes: updating passwords; using two-factor authentication; don’t ignore software updates; check financial statements monthly; monitor your credit; tighten social media privacy settings, and avoid clicking on links in emails or texts from unknown sources,” he explained.
Keeping your passwords updated often and being careful about the links you click on can play a significant part in helping keep your accounts safe. It’s also essential to use different passwords for your online accounts, as using the same password means that should one account become compromised, the others may follow shortly after.
Ultimately, security breaches are here to stay. With so much vital and personal information stored online, the digital age has turned your convenience into a treasure trove for bad actors who want to take advantage of you.
But, if you keep your passwords updated and keep an eye on things like your credit score, you can fight back against the growing rate of fraud reports—which reached over 2.2 million in 2020.