If the latest reports from Javelin Strategy are to be believed, there has been an increase in online identity theft cases in the past few years. “According to a 2017 report from Javelin Strategy, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft in the United States, while total losses across all types of identity theft reached $16.8 billion” (source).
It doesn’t come as a surprise as most internet users are now using multiple accounts through various online sources. Financial institutions, online payment processors, bank accounts, email addresses and other similar accounts make up a huge list of to-remember passwords that are frankly impossible to maintain.
This has forced various people to use generic passwords or less than unique passwords for more than a single account to keep the process of password and account information retrieval seamless. The flipside to this behavior is that most of these passwords can be easily guessed by the vigilant hacker, and has led to almost tripling the rate of online identity thefts.
The integration of social networks such as Facebook into the mix has caused a lot of companies and online users to simplify their login process by using a single master account. But due to the nature of social networks, hacking into a single master account through Facebook can reveal a lot of sensitive and private information that can easily lead to cases such as identity thefts.
It is also common among internet folks to download anything and everything that catches their eye. In their haste, downloaders don’t check the program for malware, and they are even oblivious to the dangers lurking in programs that may appear attractive on the outside.
Downloadable programs that aren’t properly authenticated or audited will have high number of malware and malicious tracking codes built into their main code. Therefore, when an unsuspecting downloader downloads and installs a program, the program has the capability to run in the background and log all user activity without the user’s consent.
Therefore, these programs can and will gather sensitive data, including key strokes (in case of user names and passwords), which will then be used for various illegal purposes.
Truth be told, it is pretty hard for a normal internet user to stay vigilant at all times, and there may be instances where the user can make a wrong judgment and pay the price.
Therefore, investing in good quality antivirus, staying away from programs without proper security authentication, changing passwords regularly, and being extra careful while browsing can help prevent online identity thefts.
One can also make use of Virtual Private Network technology (VPN) to encrypt their traffic data. By using a VPN service (such as the ones listed here), an internet user is essentially rerouting their internet traffic through secure server tunnels, so that every data being transmitted through a LAN or Wi-Fi connection will stay encrypted. Therefore, even if your computer has malware in it, the data processed by such malware will not reach the intended hacker due to data encryption.
Furthermore, using a VPN will also help you stay anonymous, and it will be extremely difficult for hackers or even other organizations to track your whereabouts, which will come in handy when it comes to protecting sensitive personal data.