Cybercrime is a threat to every individual and business in the digital era, meaning that it is important to remain vigilant and make yourself aware of the issues you face.
Identity theft is one of the biggest concerns for many web users, but to what extent are you at risk and can you do anything to limit your vulnerability?
A worrying trend
Each year identity theft costs consumers and businesses billions, and while steps have been taken by the authorities to try and curb this kind of fraud, it is still rife and on the rise.
In theory, everyone is at risk of identity theft, whether you are a regular web user or not. Your data can be stolen and exploited by malicious third parties after an online service you use suffers a security breach, or if someone physically steals sensitive documents from your general waste.
What is even more problematic is the fact that risk levels are not dependent on your profile. Whether you are a public figure or you live a relatively quiet life, cybercriminals will still be eager to purloin personal information and manipulate your identity to their own ends.
Protection & prevention best practices
The good news is that you can fight back against the threat of identity theft by thinking carefully about your own actions and also investing in identity theft protection.
One of the most common ways for cybercriminals to snatch data from unsuspecting victims is via phishing emails and scam websites which are set up to look like genuine articles produced by legitimate brands. The easiest way to sidestep this strategy is to never open unsolicited messages, especially if they include attachments, as doing so could leave you with a device that is infected with privacy-compromising malware.
Installing antivirus software on your PC and smartphone should also shield you from the advances of digital conmen, although you will also need to remember to keep all of your software up to date so that newly discovered security flaws are not left unpatched.
Even if your personal information does fall into the wrong hands, you can still stay safe by choosing strong passwords and, more importantly, changing them regularly. Randomness and length are key to password strength, but some experts suggest picking random three word phrases so that they are both memorable and almost impossible to crack through brute force methods.
If you are worried about your levels of vulnerability to identity theft, or you suspect that you have fallen victim to this kind of fraud, it is best to act quickly and alert the relevant authorities. Telling your bank to freeze your payment cards, for example, could stop fraudulent transactions from being conducted.
Keep your wits about you and recognize that there are serious risks to cope with whenever you go online and you should be in a good position to use connected services safely and securely. Complacency is the biggest enemy of safety in this context.