Personal Information Trafficking - Clear and Present Danger

The Internet is a living organism. Just like in every ecosystem, nothing is wasted, which has its good and bad sides. If you’ve been long enough on the web you’ll know that everything you do leaves traces that point back at you. Now websites keep a record of the activity of their visitors and use cookies extensively to store additional information about them. Although recent amendments demand a more transparent approach to the use of cookies, for example, the average customer is still relatively unaware of what information and for what purposes is being collected. This brings us to the point, what are the risks of exposing our personal data to the public eye?

personal data must be secured

Why Am I being Tracked and by Who?

You are not dreaming on, you are a rockstar in your own right. Multi-billion dollar companies are dying to find out your inmost thoughts, by any means necessary. Since the Internet has become the natural habitat of our alter ego, it’s fair to say that a good deal of insight on ourselves could be found in the space thereof. Therefore it’s not a coincidence that various organizations are readily leveraging this invaluable source of information and all of them fear loosing customer data after a hacker attack. They could be ranging from credit agencies to government agencies and anything in between. But so far we haven’t answered the question “Why are they doing it?”. Some organizations are pretty upfront about it - they need the research in order to provide you with better service if you want to go along with that explanation. Some people find it as a euphemism for personal data abuse. Let’s take for instance your mobile operator, for them extracting information about your mobile device or demographic region is all in a day’s work, but whether it is marketed afterward is a subject of speculation. Such low-level data is of utmost importance to advertising companies, this is why more and more mobile applications require access to your location coordinates. The big “why” question could translate into something even more apparent as a simple research on public opinion on a topic. We live in the dawn of social media and everyone has the right to express where they stand on the topical importance. In this proactive environment, it’s as clear as daylight which news is well-received and which became the punching bag for “dislikes”. This is how trends are created and, sociological researches are made. Dealing in large bundles of information, however, invariably compromises some more sensible pieces, which are better kept confidential. Every now and then we take part in online voting, be it an article, post or comment, so if you don’t want to give away information about your personal beliefs and likings abstain from being so punctual in your keyboard quests.

Don’t Let the Trojan Horse in

While surfing the web doesn’t expose us to so many a lurking threats, it’s what we download and particularly what we install on our device that holds the utmost gravity. When we use email or suspicious-looking websites, there is a fair amount of malicious software that could get passed under the radar. But how we became the subject of this attack in the first place? One too many registrations with that email address maybe? Very often we make a quick registration with a site or service and then forsake it. If we don’t have any value as a customer to this site, it could then go ahead and sell our information, in our case - the email to other sites, which could, in turn, do the same although all these makes them legally responsible. This could repeat a number of times and with each cycle, the holder of your email will become more and more shadier. This is how you end up receiving those strange emails, which might contain malicious software. If left unchecked those, so-called “viruses” could cause detrimental losses of data and even damage physically our computer. One such example is the ransomware, which, once settled in on our device holds our data a hostage, shackling it with impenetrable encryption, therefore rendering it inaccessible. The whole purpose of this, as you may guesse it, is the ransom paid in exchange for the key to accessing your information. Typically, the first line of defense of the corporate networks has a way of filtering the suspicious websites and emails, but this is war and you have to expect the unexpected and always stay on your toes. Occasionally malicious emails slip by and they could get an entire company in a world of hurt because what they do best is to spread quickly through the local network until they completely take over.

How Not to Fall Victim to Fishing for Information organizations

Always read the important notices on how your personal information will be used by the websites you visit. You want to know whether it will be aggregated or personalized. Upon installing apps and software don’t just skim through the terms of agreement, remember that you have the right to disagree. If you have subscribed unintentionally to a newsletter, you should opt out timely, the link for this is usually at the very end. If you find it somewhat a tall order to deal with the constant attacks of your private space, a good idea will be to turn to the professionals and opt for a firewall software that will do the hard work for you. Even the paid software has a trial period that will allow you to test it out and see if it cuts it. Not to mention the various free solutions available out there

Final Thoughts

By all means, not everything that shines is gold, you could only benefit from a more reserved approach towards the obscure websites and peculiar messages or emails. Statements like “you are the lucky winner, click here to claim your prize”, or clear imposter emails should be taken with a grain of salt. Remember that the big websites lure in tons of traffic and the big companies want to get hands on the statistical data accumulated there. When visiting a website always read the important notices explaining how your activity is being monitored and what for.