The internet is a weird and wonderful place, full of possibilities, information, and entertainment. It’s where we do everything these days, from work to play and everything in-between. The World Wide Web used to be a somewhat scary place when it first started to become popular and accessible to many of us, but we’ve now come to accept how useful it is in life to enhance connectivity and productivity in almost every industry globally. Even if you don’t have a desktop, laptop, or tablet, most people now own smartphones and are connected to the internet in some way or the other.
However, as with everything, we’ve got to be sensible and take our precautions. While you’ll find some of the best of humanity online, it’s also a place where the vile and villainous come to play – those who take advantage of the vulnerability in others for their own, criminal personal gain.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that refraining from being online is the way to go. Because, for most of us, we’re still part of society and the online world is inextricably entwined with the real world in many ways, from the banking systems to health infrastructure. What this means for us is that by interacting with these institutions – or by going online at all – we’re exchanging data. Often, on many levels, the data that we exchange is of a personal nature.
Personally Identifiable Information – What Is It?
As mentioned, we exchange data all the time while online. It’s practically what the internet is based on. By interacting with the online world and with institutions that use services connected to the internet, we’re placing our personally identifiable information (PII) on the internet.
Let’s get further into the concept of what PII actually entails and why it’s so important. PII alludes to any data that can be utilized to recognize a particular individual. The most predominant sorts of PII are Social Security numbers, mailing or email addresses, also, telephone numbers, anyway innovation has significantly widened the extent of PII. An IP address, login IDs, informal organization posts, or advanced photos may all be incorporated. PII can also include geolocation, biometric, and behavioral data.
This concept encompasses not only a person’s given name and surname, but also any information that could be used to identify that individual. This is the case when, for example, a cookie or login information is used to identify a visitor returning to your website.
You might be wondering why you need to keep this information safe. Why does your personal data matter? Well, it’s simpler than you think.
Why Would a Hacker Steal My PII?
Cybercriminals and identity thieves use our personal information in a variety of destructive ways. They can apply for loans or lines of credit, make transactions using our credit cards, steal our tax refunds, drain our financial accounts, and more through direct assault.
Synthetic identity theft is another way that our PII is used. When a fraudster blends someone’s PII with bogus information, they establish a synthetic identity. An actual Social Security number, for example, might be used with a fictitious name and address to create a new identity. Because your Social Security number was used, you will be held responsible if the thief uses this identity to conduct a crime. Synthetic identity theft is the fastest-growing financial crime in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve.
Another way criminals utilize our personal information is to sell the stolen data on the dark web. On this dark side of the internet, evil actors can sell everything from social media credentials and credit card data to medical details and Netflix passwords for criminal and financial gain. By acquiring and offloading personal information, hackers can profit handsomely. Hackers and thieves know this – after all, big data is a massive industry which profits massively from our PII of every kind, and they’re doing this through “legitimate” means all the time.
What Can I Do to Protect My PII?
Your sensitive personal information must be kept safe and secure now more than ever. By identifying suspected phishing websites or other potential cybercrime attempts, you can lower your risk of becoming a victim of a fraud or scam by using common sense and some basic tools and suggestions.
Be Cautious on Social Media
We all know a few people who reveal far too much personal information about themselves on social media. This is not only inconvenient, but it also puts your PII in jeopardy. Check your privacy settings to see who is reading your postings, and be wary of sharing your location, hometown, birthdate, or other personal information.
Free Wi-Fi – Convenient but Dangerous
Most free public Wi-Fi networks have insufficient security protections in place, which means that others on the same network could easily see what you’re doing. Before pulling out that credit card, be sure you’re at home or connected to a safe, password-protected network. If you use public Wi-Fi, we strongly suggest using a VPN.
Stay Aware of Phishing Emails and Scams
Hackers are cunning, and their phishing scams are sometimes disguised as official messages from a bank, utility company, or other business. Certain characteristics, such as misspellings or a different email address than the usual sender, can indicate that the email is spam.
Is That Website Secure?
Strong Passwords Are Essential
Think outside phrases or numbers that a cybercriminal may easily figure out, such as your birthday, when creating a password. Change the lower- and upper-case letters, numerals, and symbols you use on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to generate a unique password rather than using the same one on several sites. Better yet, make use of a password manager.