In the modern world, technology has reached its prime. What we considered science fiction a few years ago is now a reality. Cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are the new normal.
While technology continues to progress, cybercriminals have managed to break through even the strongest data security protocols successfully. Cybercrimes are on the rise, and criminals have invented numerous ways to penetrate a system or network, steal data, and exploit it for personal gain. One of the most common cybercrimes is identity theft. Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about identity theft.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft has been considerably debated in recent years. While the definition of identity theft is simple, the number of ways a network or individual identity is stolen is countless. It remains the most common cybercrime compared to denial of service (DoS), SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other hacking mechanisms.
Identity theft refers to various acts of a cybercriminal to acquire the personal information of individuals. This information could be a user ID, password, credit card number, social security number, bank account titles and numbers, admin account details, and much more. After getting this information, cybercriminals exploit this information for fraudulent purposes or to gain control over vital resources. Some common examples are transferring funds from hacked accounts into other bank accounts, using credit card information to purchase expensive items, or using bank account details to apply for loans.
Cyber security engineers are trained to handle issues related to identity theft. Cyber security engineers are high-profile software engineers who diagnose and prevent cyberattacks and employ security mechanisms to mitigate them. Consequently, compared to programmers or network engineers, cyber security engineer salary is much higher.
The benefits of hiring a cyber security engineer surpass the costs of cyberattacks and identity theft. Businesses worldwide look for expert cyber security engineers for various organizational roles related to data and network security. Cyber security engineers create disaster management plans and security policies. They execute the network security protocols and educate employees on how to prevent identity theft.
The Costs of Identity Theft
Identity theft is among the top cybercrimes in the world, and businesses, as well as individuals, have lost billions of dollars in such security lapses. On average, nearly 2.5 million identities are stolen every year. Nearly one-third of the US population has experienced identity theft at least once, costing them more than $56 billion annually. The frequency of these attacks can be visualized by the fact that a person falls victim to an identity theft every 14 seconds in the US alone. This data vulnerability is why organizations and businesses worldwide require cyber security engineers to protect data from theft and implement strict security measures.
How Do Hackers Exploit an Identity Theft?
There are various ways to steal the identity of an individual or a business. A hacker may utilize phishing scams, smishing, malware, or brute-force attacks to obtain personal information. When a hacker steals someone’s identity, they can use this information in the following ways:
Account Theft and Takeover
Cybercriminals steal bank account information and get access to personal data. After stealing this information, the hackers instantly alter information like passwords, email addresses, physical addresses, etc., to deny the authentic user access to their account information. After hackers block the original user, they exploit this information within a short timeframe to transfer funds or make massive online purchases. Hackers have to do this fairly soon because whenever a bank or financial institution identifies a theft, they instantly free the accounts for further transactions.
Credit Identity Theft
In credit identity theft, the hacker uses your personal information to apply for funds from a financial institution, government body, or bank. In this case, hackers do not limit access to the authentic user and prefer to remain invisible during the credit procedure. A user only learns about the new loan when a hacker has already received the funds and transferred them into another account.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft occurs when criminals steal a child’s social security number to access financial accounts and apply for loans in the child’s name. The procedure and purpose are the same as mentioned above, but sometimes the child or their family comes to know about the fraud only after they reach adulthood.
Taxpayer Identity Theft
In such a theft, cybercriminals steal an individual’s social security number and personal information to file a tax return and steal any tax refunds or credits in your name. In such a situation, the taxpayers lose access to tax information and cannot file a tax return online.
Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft is a series of identity theft performed on an individual account. The cybercriminal gathers an individual’s information from various sources and uses this data for malicious purposes like creating the individual’s fake online profile and using it to get service benefits. Some high-profile individuals complain that hackers have used their personal information to tarnish their image on various online platforms. Hackers also sell information on the dark web in exchange for digital currency or paper money.
How to Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft is a common cybercrime, and there are various easy solutions to mitigate such an occurrence. Although the threat of identity theft may still linger, the following steps can help you make it difficult for cybercriminals to steal your identity:
Keep Your Social Security Number and Accounts Information Safe
Banks and government organizations are rapidly improving their data security protocols. 2-factor authentication, enforcing strong password creation, and data encryption techniques are some of the latest security parameters that these organizations have implemented to improve data privacy and security. However, individuals and businesses should go the extra mile to secure their social security numbers and account information. If someone contacts you and says they are a bank representative, it’s better to inform the bank about it. Always remember that banks and financial institutions never ask for personal information on your cell phone or through SMS or email for verification or other purposes. Avoid falling victim to smishing and phishing attacks.
Freeze Your Credit
When a person or business needs to get a loan, they can contact the three major credit bureaus in the US, namely TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. If you suspect identity theft, be quick to request them to freeze your credit and inform them about a possible data breach. Freezing your credit doesn’t cost any money; you can always unfreeze it when you want to get funds.
Strong Password is Your First Line of Defense
Using the same password for more than one account isn’t wise, especially if the account contains highly sensitive information or a bank balance. Using a password that includes a complex and unique combination of characters, alphabets, and numbers is the best technique to make it nearly impossible for the hacker to guess a password. Wherever possible, use a 2-factor or multi-factor authentication technique to add a layer of security to your account. Do not reuse passwords; use a password manager to create and store complex, unique passwords for your accounts. You could use a one-time password (OTP), a secret question, or a biometric identification.
Turn on Notifications for Banking Apps and Email
Turning on notifications for essential apps is a valuable technique to diagnose identity theft quickly. Whenever a criminal attempt to log in from a different device, your Android or iPhone instantly sends you an email about the suspicious activity and asks you to verify it. Banking apps also send push notifications in the event of any activity. Never mute push notifications from important apps, and check your email regularly.
Protect Your Mobile Devices from Unauthorized Access
Mobile devices can be a real risk, particularly when you use a weak pin or there is no screen lock. If your mobile is physically accessible to people and all your apps have saved login credentials, it’s a recipe for disaster. Avoid saving passwords on mobile’s local storage, and don’t allow internet browsers to save your login credentials.
Identity theft is becoming increasingly common throughout the world as individuals have started to use more applications on mobile devices. You are now more aware of identity theft, and it is critical to implement the security precautions outlined above to avoid an instance of identity theft and keep your information safe from misuse.