Reducing your Footprint to Cyber Crime

By David Chinn

Here’s how I cleaned up my exposure online

The setup

We have all trusted personal information to online vendors… none of your data is safe!

Data breaches are uncovered daily exposing your information to include name, address, email address, credit card numbers, social security number and other sensitive information.

SelfKey reports that over 5.3 billion personal records were breached in 2019. In addition, as reported by Experian, 14.2 million credit card and 158 million social security numbers were exposed.

You might recognize a partial list of companies that were exposed: Facebook, Microsoft, T-Mobile, 7-Eleven, Capital One, Georgia-Tech, FEMA, Dow Jones and Dunkin’ Donuts. You have given your personal information to just about every company/organization/retailer/healthcare provider that you’ve done business with in the past 10 years. Are they keeping your data safe? No.

Below is a link to a 2019 report on data breaches. It’s interesting to see the target data compromised and how the attacker used the information.

https://selfkey.org/data-breaches-in-2019

 

 

 

Online Accounts

After going through “the setup” above, the remainder of this article is a review of a personal journey that I had in 2019. I had a week that business was slow, so I thought I would go through my accounts list and remove online accounts that I no longer use.

Four days later, I finished up. I removed over 90 accounts that I had created. Some of the accounts I deleted by logging into the account and finding the “remove account” option. Some I had to call and go through an email exchange to authenticate myself before the account would be deleted by the vendor.

I developed a new scheme that I will share with you.

Utility and credit accounts

I purchased a second PO Box at a different post office than I normally use. I updated all credit card and utility accounts to use this new address. I also added a verbal password to all accounts that must be authenticated when calling a vendor.

Credit card note: I only have two online accounts now that have a credit card attached--- Amazon and iTunes. The majority of my online purchases now go through Amazon.com.

Email Accounts

I created multiple Gmail accounts. Each email account is configured to redirect incoming mail to an account I check frequently, so that I can see any hack attempts made on the Gmail accounts.

I updated all my remaining online accounts to use one of the new Gmail accounts for login/contact and implemented a new password.

Passwords

I changed all my accounts to use a unique complex password. Don’t use any personal information in a password scheme (child names, birth date, address, etc.)

An example of a complex password might be… &Indian@1Pasers! or ##Indy18Coltz!

The whole idea of the above conventions is to make it difficult for a hacker. If they acquire my personal information from a breached vendor, my login information will not work on any other account. The first thing a hacker will do after a breach is to visit major sites to try your username and password credentials. 

Malware & virus attacks

Make sure to have good Malware software installed that runs daily scans. Any malware that gets loaded can strip personal information from your computer and report it back to the hack source.

Password management

Consider using an online password manager. https://www.dashlane.com is highly rated and has a free account option to manage up to 50 passwords.

Searching for your information
A new site, https://www.fastpeoplesearch.com, has gathered a ton of personal information. Search for your info by name, address or phone. You can request that your profile be removed here: https://www.fastpeoplesearch.com/removal

Google Search

I also search for my name, home address and phone numbers on a regular basis to see where personal information may be listed. I then contact the resource to remove the listings.

Home note: Your home address may show up in Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia. Make sure there is not a virtual tour of interior photos included. You can request the inside photos be removed based on a “security and privacy hazard to your family.”