Sometime in 2019, Emmanuel, a graphic designer got the biggest shock of his life. He had decided to join the TkTok gang but was unable to. According to the app, his email had already been used to signup.
He was pretty confused, he was sure he hadn’t signed up before. After trying multiple times with no luck, he decided to search his name on the app. To his surprise, he was actually on the app and already had over 5,000 followers.
That was not all, the account actually had his picture as the profile image and it was promoting Ponzi schemes and other get rich schemes. Like Emmanuel, many people are in the dark. Their identities have been stolen and they don’t know it.
This types of identity theft were made possible because of the information exposed when tech companies suffer data breaches. The same data breaches most tech users ignore.
Many people forget that the very sensitive and private information they give to tech platforms can be stolen when they suffer data breaches. This means that the name, e-mail, phone number, address and date of birth you gave when signing up can all be stolen in a well-planned attack.
Powered with this type of information, criminal elements can wreak different kinds of havoc, some of which I will explain later.
From the Facebook Data breach which recently exposed the personal information of over 530 million of its users to the reported leak of the personal data of 1.3 million Clubhouse users and 500 million LinkedIn users, data breaches continue to dominate headlines around the world.
The Facebook leak included phone numbers, full names, locations, some email addresses and other details from user profiles.
According to a Risk-Based Security research report, over 5,183 breaches were reported and more than 7.9 billion records were compromised within the first nine months of 2019.
Another study by Better Business Bureau revealed that 22% of small businesses have been the targets of cyberattacks. And approximately 11% of these occurred in the last year.
This shows that despite the greater emphasis being placed on data security, cybercriminals are finding new ways to infiltrate, expose and profit from valuable company data.
Unfortunately, the worrying increase in data breaches shows that many organisations are woefully underprepared and failing to implement the basic security measures that are needed to prevent data breaches.
In a recent study conducted by Kaspersky, more than half of the recipients (57%) said they do not have a cybersecurity policy in place.
It’s this complacency that exposes users to significant risk and places them in the middle of a sea for fraudulent sharks to take a bite of. Some of the more damaging consequences of a data breach include:
1) Identity theft
Like I pointed out at the beginning, many users don’t know that they are being impersonated. With access to a person’s full name, date of birth and email, someone can easily open a TikTok account or account on any platform they wish.
For example, the details in Facebooks recent data breach is enough to create an account with a stolen identity like in the case of Emmanuel. Similarly, Derek Vinebo recently found out that his BVN had been used when he tried using it on the Carbon App.
Some may think nothing of stolen Identity but the fact is, if the account is used for criminal activities it can be traced back to you. This means that without proper evidence you can land in a whole lot of trouble for something you know nothing about.
2) Fool proof scams
Getting a scam message or being targeted by a phishing attack is unsurprising and not protecting your personal or sensitive details puts you at a whole lot of risk.
This is because scammers can now tailor their scams to be foolproof. The messages will be so misleading that you would almost believe them to be true because of how accurate the details are.
In a case when a scam caller gets your bank name, account number and email correctly, anyone could be fooled that the caller is legit. But he actually is not and all these problems are caused by data breaches.
3) Financial loss
This is one of the biggest fears but many do not take precaution until they become victims. The fact is, when personal details are exposed, it makes it easier to fall for financial scams.
Since you don’t know which kind of details scammers have on you, it’s better to be cautious. If they are able to get all the permissions required to bypass all safeguards, they can empty your account in seconds.
4) Invasion of Privacy
Many Africans including Nigerians are not big on privacy like Europe or the US but it’s actually very important. With as little as a name and picture, anyone can find out private information about you online either via social media or elsewhere.
This means that sensitive details like address can fall into the hands of criminal elements. So protection both physically and online is dependent on privacy.
For example, in the case where a hacker has discovered your preferences from a data breach, he can tailor these wants as a clickbait to hack and steal from you.
5) Reputation Damage
This is an extended effect of Identity Theft. In a case when one’s identity is used to perpetuate a scam, it can damage one’s reputation even if you later find out and dismiss it.
This is because not everybody will believe you didn’t do it, with you being the face of it and all. It could even lead to a criminal investigation that could drag your name in the mud.
A good example was the Twitter crypto scam last year in which the hackers took over the accounts of Elon Musk, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, among other prominent handles to perpetuate the scam.
Regardless of how prepared a tech platform is against a data breach, there is still a possibility of it happening. This is why you should be inquisitive enough to find out if your data is among those compromised when a breach is discovered.
Facebook users can use the Have I Been Pwned online tool to check if their numbers or emails were compromised.
This way you will be able to take proactive measure to prevent any after-effects explained above, There are also other personal protection strategies you can put in place that protects sensitive data, reduces threats and safeguards your data.
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