With more than 4 billion having internet access & using it on a daily basis, the security of your personal data becomes paramount with the exchange of massive amounts of data online these days. Cybersecurity has become a key issue for consumers especially in the backdrop of the data breaches which have become rampant in the past decade or so. This has not only highlighted the issue of lack of proper controls & safeguards at big companies but also of how they use our personal data to monetize their business models.
This has also tarnished the image of the tech companies who the consumers had come to trust with their data, and were much more comfortable buying services from them. No company seems to safe anymore. In 2018 alone, we have seen the social media giant Facebook reporting data breaches twice affecting millions of users each time. As if this wasn’t enough, Google reported exposing the data of more than 500K users of its social network Google+ between 2015 & March 2018. The ironical part is that Google reported no misuse of data but in response to this incident decided to completely shut down the portal, Huh? Apparently, Google didn’t disclose this earlier, citing fear of regulatory scrutiny. Wondering if we should still trust these tech giants with our personal data?
European Data regulation like the GDPR is a step in the right direction in protecting customers’ data & these tech companies are now facing multi-billion dollar lawsuits. Strict regulations (for data usage) with proper safeguards (for security) need to be in place & enforced to halt this deteriorating situation.
Just as the various tech companies & online platforms have a moral and legal responsibility of protecting user data & regulatory authorities have a duty to enforce laws to protect consumer data & privacy, there are certain steps that we can take in a personal capacity to minimize our digital footprint on the web.
These are some common points to remember when browsing online:
- Use strong passwords — a combination of letters, digits & special characters
- Change passwords often — every few months is advised
- Avoid using open networks (hotspots etc.) especially to access sensitive information
- Don’t give out personal information to unknown websites
- Cleaning your browsing history on public and/or workplace computers
- Installing a good anti-virus software & keeping it up to date to protect your computer
- Shopping online on websites that use secure technology to protect your data
- Keep your personal Wi-Fi networks password protected
- If possible use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access the internet privately & securely
The enormity of the problem of Cybercrime can be gauged from the fact that according to estimates, the cost of data breaches would total around $6 trillion by the year 2021 – practically dwarfing the third largest economy of Japan! The infographic below outlines some of the biggest data breaches in the past 15 years. Some of the key takeaways from the compilation are:
▶ Most of the targeted companies are big names in their respective industries – Yahoo, Facebook, eBay, Equifax etc.
▶ Over 14,717,618,286 records have been compromised since 2013 alone with 75 records compromised every second.
▶ North America seems to be the most lucrative target location for cybercriminals with 86% of the breaches in 2017 occurring there.
▶ Despite strict Cybersecurity controls, breached records have been on a continuous upswing rising from 35.7 million in 2008 to 446.52 million in 2018.
▶ The biggest data heist was carried out on the former search engine giant Yahoo where all 3 billion of its accounts were exposed in 2013.
▶ The business sector is the most targeted accounting for 45.9% of the total breaches.
▶ An alarming statistic is that one out of every four data breaches is caused by employees rather than outside attackers – also while 42% of the attacks are caused by hackers or Cybercriminals, 29% are caused by internal system glitches.
Cyber crime is also taking the Lion’s share for most financial institutions —some of the biggest banks in U.S are spending huge sums of money to counter the problem — in 2016, JPMorgan doubled its cybersecurity to $500 million, and Bank of America said it has an unlimited budget for combating cyber crime.
At the end of the day it all comes down to how you handle your data — it is precious… treat it as such.