Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How Can I Protect My Personal Information from Data Scraping?
Are you one of the millions of people who are worried about the data breaches that have occurred with Facebook, Linkedin, Clubhouse, and Qlink Wireless? Well, the good news is none of these companies has recently been breached with your user name and password information is safe. The bad news is cybercriminals have resorted to a 'data scraping' to obtain your personal information off social media to either sell the highest bidder or to use it to target you with personal cyber-attacks to get your money. How can you protect yourself from this emerging new threat? Here are 5 tips you can use to keep your data safe.
What is data scraping? The term data scraping refers to a bot or a computer program that extracts data from websites or other platforms. Data scraping, also known as harvesting has been around since the beginning of the World Wide Web. The information normally collected includes data, such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, and more. This technology is normally used by marketing companies that want to conduct advertising research or to find sales leads, but like many technology tools, programs that were created to benefit people can also be used to take advantage of them as we've seen with several social media websites suffering a data breach due to data scraping.
Why is data scraping a problem? Just like a data breach in which a hacker breaks into secure computer systems, data scaping can expose your important data which leaves you open to the following attacks:
Password Breaches. Under most circumstances, passwords aren't leaked during data scraping, but the data that is leaked can help a criminal figure out your password. Most of you use passwords that are based on your personal interests and your personal lives. All of this information is available on your social media accounts in the form of your biography or the information you share in the form of posts on social media. Once this information is gathered, it's pretty easy for a hacker to figure out your passwords.
Phishing Attacks. If a criminal gets ahold of the information leaked in a web scraping scheme, it makes it much easier to create phishing attacks that are designed to target you. Hackers can find out which phishing attacks you're more susceptible to falling for. Phishing comes in a variety of forms such as email, text, and voice which means if criminals has access to multiple forms of contact, they can continually bombard you with phishing attacks.
Protect your data from data scraping. Ultimately it's up to big data companies to enable practices to keep your information from falling into the hands of criminals, but in the meantime, there are some things you can do to protect yourself:
1. It's time to become a Cyber Liar. Yes, you want people to know who you are, but you need to your information safe. Don't be so forthcoming about what you share online. If you can, change your social media profile names and create an online alias to keep your personal information off websites. This also includes using a fake address, fake phone number and being dishonest about those security questions you fill out.
2. Time to change those passwords and start using passphrases. Again, it's rare that a password would be leaked with data scraping, but if you're like most people, you're still using passwords. Make the switch to Passphrases is a sentence-like string of words used for logins that is longer than a standard password. They are easy for you to remember and difficult to crack. An example of a passphrase would be 'yellowmicrophonestand!' or stinkyvioletchicken45?
3. Setup two-factor authentication on all online accounts. There's always a good chance a criminal can get access to your online accounts which is why you need to enable 2-factor authentication can keep your accounts secure. When it's enabled, you get an email or text alert that someone is trying to get access to your accounts. If it's you or someone you trust, you can allow access. If it's a crook, you can deny them access.
4. Use a password manager to manage your account passwords. If you're like most users, you have a ton of online accounts, and keeping on top of all of those passwords is a challenge. Stop the struggle and utilize a password manager such as Lastpass, Dashlane, and your own browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge to keep track of all of those account passwords. A bonus which password managers are they are always scanning the web to see if any of your passwords have leaked on the dark web.
5. Keep ahead of data breaches by making sure you’re haven’t been pwned. Many of the companies you deal with aren't forthcoming if they experience a data leak. Websites like Haveibeenpwned www.haveibeenpwned.com allow you to stay ahead of the game and track breaches that involve your information.
Data breaches can change the course of your life. Businesses and individuals alike can experience huge complications from having sensitive information exposed and gathered by criminals. In this digital age we live in, make sure you're taking steps to stay safe and keeping up to date with how to protect yourself from data breaches.
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