5 Ways Technology Assists Identity Theft

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hacker on his computer using technology for identity theft

Technology is becoming increasingly interconnected. Most people use multiple devices daily and store almost everything about their lives online, leading to identity theft.

Additionally, improvements in information management centralize all those details in one place. While this is undoubtedly convenient, it also adds new possibilities for cybercriminals to exploit.

If the device gets compromised, the owner will lose much more than a single piece of information. It can lead to identity theft or even put work accounts at risk. After all, more than 80 percent of US workers report using at least one personal device for their job. 

1.   Cloud Computing and Storage

The cloud’s primary purpose is to store and sort information in an off-site location. It’s used by both individuals and corporations, with its primary benefits being flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and convenience.

However, the possible liabilities in the cloud’s security can offset these advantages. The ability to access the cloud from mobile devices also encourages engaging with unsafe Wi-Fi connections, allowing hackers to monitor any traffic coming to and from the cloud. Any personal information found this way will help them to steal an identity or leverage any other information they can get their hands on.

Staying away from public Wi-Fi doesn’t ensure complete safety either. Cybercriminals often try to hack users’ cloud accounts directly and gain access to the service provider. This allows them to “hop” to other people’s data and access new information.

While there are many well-guarded cloud providers, it’s essential to understand the dangers of using the cloud. Individuals risk medical, financial, tax, and identity theft depending on what information they store.

2.   Skimming

Skimming is a strategy used to collect and duplicate the data from credit cards. By altering ATMs and commercial card readers, scammers can record the magnetic stripe data and the personal identification numbers (PIN) of every card used.

The 2021 Kaspersky Security Bulletin states that the number of credit card skimming operations steadily increases yearly. New technologies allow criminals to download the card information and create duplicates in a very short time. This gives criminals direct access to bank accounts and credit lines.

One way to minimize the risk of interacting with skimming is to use contactless payment options whenever possible. By going contactless, you bypass credit card readers entirely and keep your information out of malicious hands.

3.   Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a highly targeted strategy to trick people into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware. Traditional phishing scams play a numbers game and send malicious communications to a large population. However, spear phishing is for a more concrete purpose.

Hackers want to ransom or leverage specific information from one particular target. So, they first need to earn their target’s trust, which requires a heavy burden of research. However, the rise of social media has taken much of that out of the equation.

Usurping a social media account associated with a target provides hackers with all the tools they need to succeed. It allows them to see private information and send out messages that would generally be suspicious. These messages often include a disguised link that will install malware onto the target’s computer.

This malware will track and record the user’s online activity. It most likely sends back various login credentials, particularly of financial accounts, exposing users to identity theft.

4.   Unsecure Wi-Fi Network

Earlier in this article, we discussed how hackers could monitor and read your activity over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi is “unsecured” because the transferred data isn’t encrypted.

It means that even the most unskilled hacker can see everything. So, logging into bank accounts or other vital profiles should be saved strictly for private connections. A 2022 study found that nearly 25 percent of travelers get hacked due to using public Wi-Fi while traveling.

Nowadays, hackers can precisely copy public Wi-Fi networks down to the MAC address. These “Evil Twins” networks often provide a stronger signal than the original to attract more users. Anyone who connects to these networks is at an extremely high risk for identity theft.

 Do you wonder how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi and avoid such risks? Use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN will strain your data through its servers and cloak it with military-grade encryption, so users remain anonymous.

5.   Botnets

“Bots” are computers that a hacker controls remotely through malware. They use these infected computers to perform cyberattacks like identity theft. The owners of bot computers may not even know that their units are compromised.

Bring enough of these bots together, and a “botnet” forms. The dangerous thing about these webs is that they’re constantly growing. The malware locates weaknesses in surrounding devices and extends its reach while extracting the personal data found on each computer.

A botnet also executes sweeping strategies that are impossible with only one computer. It can send out billions of emails and DDoS networks. Then it creates communication channels through the devices.

Know Your Enemy to Best Protect Yourself

Individuals must understand the possible risks when connecting to a new network or logging into an account. Learning when and how hackers target their victims is the key to combating identity theft. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be wise to consider professional protection even as an individual.

However, technology is continually improving and changing how we approach cybersecurity. It reveals weaknesses in existing systems that go unnoticed, and hackers quickly take advantage of them. We all need to stay aware of the best online practices around the ever-evolving cybersecurity technology.

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