Back before the advancement of technology data protection wasn’t a relevant thing. As everything has moved online over the years then you’ve been sharing personal data with various websites and potentially third parties. This puts you at risk as if there is a cyber-attack or anything similar then people you’ve not given consent to will be able to access your data and use it. You will provide companies with this data in many scenarios whether it’s signing up for a loyalty scheme, data that your employer needs, or ordering things online these all put you at risk of identity theft and scams if your data is mishandled. This can include personal data such as your name, address, card details, or phone number which are things you wouldn’t want third parties being able to access. When people sign up for things that require some of their data they assume that it will be handled properly and that it won’t be leaked, but is your data as secure as you think it is?
The causes of data breaches
There is a whole array of reasons why your data may not be safe, even if the site you entered your data into is a trustworthy site. Whilst hacking is the biggest threat to data security, one thing many people do that assists, hackers, in stealing data is that they have an insecure password. A recent study found that 4 out of 5 ‘hackings’ were actually due to people having easy to guess passwords allowing an attacker to easily access their data, this is why many sites require your password to include at least 1 capital, 1 special symbol, and 1 number. Another main cause of data breaches is that some websites have poorly written software that is susceptible to being attacked, if any holes are left in the software then hackers can exploit this and gain access to personal data. Malware is another common thing that causes data breaches, it is malicious software that when loaded on a device opens up access for a hacker. These are the 3 most common reasons for data breaches but others include social engineering, insider threats, and improper configuration.
Rules & Regulations
There are many laws and regulations that have been implemented to try and decrease the number of data breaches that happen to help keep you and your data safe. When governments realized how serious the threat of data breaches have they implemented a Data Protection Act with new regulations around the issue. This act set out principles that everyone had to adhere to from government to small companies. Some of these principles include that data should only be used in the ways it has been stated it will be used, it can’t be stored for longer than stated or necessary, only be used in ways relevant to why it was provided and kept safe while it is being used, amongst many other things.
This was a great first step into helping to secure people’s private data as it was now illegal to misuse data. Following this was the Children’s Code, which adds additional things to the act in relation to websites and online games that children may access. This was made more specific as there is more danger involved with child data protection than there are adults. The Data Protection Act and any other relevant regulations are taken extremely seriously and if any failure of compliance is identified then there are heavy fines associated with this, up to $500,000 or even a prison sentence.
What you can do to protect yourself
Many top tech companies have provided a lot of advice about how to keep yourself and your data safe online. There are many things that factor into your safety online, some more important than others. One great tip is that picking a good vps is crucial as it gives you full control over all of your databases and any other information, so make sure you do your research if you require a VPS. Being vigilant is also important when using the internet, hackers have become much better at what they do so make sure you don’t trust anything that looks suspicious, for example, a text from your bank if your bank doesn’t usually send you texts. Many people offer up their data easily on social media sites, on Facebook for example people have a public profile with lots of information which makes them extremely vulnerable to identity theft.
Some people don’t realize the seriousness of data breaches but they are extremely damaging. The biggest scandal of the last decade was the scandal concerning Cambridge Analytica. By asking the average Facebook user like you or me to complete a survey for a small payment, which hundreds of people accepted they managed to obtain data on over 50,000 people. The users would have to download software to complete this survey and when they installed it, it allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from not only their own profile but all of their friend’s profiles too. They then sold this data on to third parties such as the Donald Trump Presidency Campaign, which many people would not be ok with. To be safe on the internet it’s not enough for you to be vigilant but you should also educate your friends and family as this will help to keep your data secure.
Olivia Is Free Independent Journalist, Has B.A in International Relations, With Many Of Her Research And Papers Published On America’s Most Influence Newspapers.