Mainstream news sites often report about how data breaches are on the rise. Take a look at almost any technology related news site and there will be some article or blog talking about some type of data theft. A few months ago, Target announced they were attacked and accidentally disclosed names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and emails for as many as 70 million people. Even more recently, AOL announced that their email system was compromised and up to 2.4 million emails accounts were accessed. Are data breaches like these really becoming more common?
Many experts on database security believe that incidents of data theft is not increasing as much as our awareness and reporting of them. Companies are afraid of the larger backlash that can occur if they don’t report data breaches. The news outlets also like stories of data breaches as nothing sells news quite like fear. So what should the average person think? Should they constantly be afraid of getting their data or personal information stolen? Or is it not something to be afraid of? Let’s look at some actual statistics.
The odds of being a victim of a data theft, resulting in a financial loss are 7%. (Or 1 in 14) This is a fairly high chance. Statistically, if you use your credit card 14 times, there is a good chance your data can become stolen.
That may seem like bad news, but here is the truth: nothing on the internet is safe. There is nothing you can do to stop theft from happening. Anything that you post online, whether that is blog posts, images, or personal information, everything is susceptible to being stolen and used by someone else. Many companies will give out your email address even if they pledge not to.
So what can you do?
Even if it is impossible to stop all theft, you can at least make it more difficult for potential thieves.
- Shred documents that contain personal information. This includes unsolicited credit card applications you get in the mail.
- Don’t freely give out your information. You do not need to give your phone number or email every time you make a purchase at Best Buy.
- Don’t use public computers for financial transactions.
- Don’t give away sensitive information like Social Security numbers, date of birth, or credit card info.
The key is making it more difficult for thieves. Often this can be enough to get them to try looking elsewhere. There is nothing you can ever do to become 100% secure on the internet (short of living in a cave for the rest of your life.) The best way to stay safe is to make sure your don’t share your personal information unless absolutely necessary.