A Serious Offense with Severe Consequences
Identity theft has serious consequences. The person whose identity has been stolen can be falsely accused of actions they did not commit. That is why several countries, have enacted legislation that treats identity theft as a criminal offense. Identity theft represents a severe and irreversible violation of informational privacy and personal data protection.
Victims of identity theft face intense consequences comparable to those of other violent crimes that affect their lives, bodies, or property. Identity theft not only impacts financial aspects, such as draining bank accounts or selling securities, but also affects the victim’s personality. There have even been cases where people have lost their freedom due to suspicions of criminal activity, particularly in cases involving the theft of biometric personal data, such as fingerprints.
What Is Identity Theft and How Is It Executed?
Identity theft refers to the illegal acquisition of personal data or the identity of another person in a manner that violates the rights to privacy and personal data protection. The consequences of identity theft can be highly negative, as affected individuals experience privacy breaches, confidentiality violations, and infringements upon personal dignity. Victims of identity theft can lose their reputation, good name, and honor, in addition to suffering emotional distress. Certain types of personal data, such as biometric data or unique identifiers, are irreversibly stolen, causing even greater harm to the victims.
Identity theft can be executed in various ways, including:
- Attacks by authorized or unauthorized individuals.
- Data theft from databases or during their transfer across networks.
- Motives such as financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, and everyday life identity theft.
- Utilizing different methods, including technical and non-technical approaches.
Preparatory acts for identity theft can involve both criminal and non-criminal activities, such as stealing a wallet with personal documents, intercepting electronic communications, computer viruses, phishing, data fraudulently obtained through deception, or searching for personal data in trash bins (dumpster diving).
Identity Theft Online
Due to the proliferation of information and communication technologies, identity theft often occurs online.
- For instance, phishing is an illegal method of deceiving users, where fraudsters employ fake websites and emails to obtain users’ personal information, such as credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, and more. Perpetrators utilize techniques that fall under social engineering and attempt to convince users to visit fake websites or directly provide their information through deceptive emails.
Awareness of Risks and the Adoption of Secure Practices to Protect Personal Data and Prevent Identity Theft are of Utmost Importance.
- Pharming attacks pose a significant risk to internet users as they are difficult to recognize. While phishing is more associated with social engineering, a pharming attack is of a more technical nature. Pharming attacks can involve direct attacks on DNS servers or manipulation of the host file located on the user’s computer. The host file contains information about URLs and domains. The attacker redirects the user to fake websites, with the URL in the browser remaining unchanged, giving the user a false sense of being on the genuine website. On these fake websites, users often enter personal information into forms, which can be exploited for misuse.
- Social engineering encompasses techniques where the attacker attempts to obtain authentication data from users or system administrators. It relies on exploiting human reactions and psychological pressures in certain situations. Attackers can successfully acquire vital information by impersonating and assuming the identities of others. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, can be fertile ground for social engineering, as people often share personal information, making it easier for attackers to gather information about victims and predict their actions.
- Viruses and worms are malicious programs that also pose a significant threat to data security. Viruses typically reside within files such as Word or Excel documents and spread when the infected file is opened. Worms, on the other hand, are self-replicating programs that automatically search for potential infection sites. Both can cause harm to a computer, such as file deletion or theft of personal data.
Data indicates that approximately 500 new viruses and worms are discovered every week, with the number of such malicious programs increasing dramatically each year. Malicious authors are becoming increasingly innovative and resourceful in their attacks.
It is important to exercise caution when opening unsolicited emails (spam) as they often contain malicious programs. It is crucial to use secure practices to protect personal data and be aware of the risks associated with internet attacks.
- Spyware, also known as adware, is one type of malicious code that poses a risk to your computer. These programs can be inadvertently downloaded while browsing the internet or can be bundled with free programs, screensavers, toolbars, or file-sharing programs through P2P networks. Spyware exploits vulnerabilities in internet browsers such as Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc., and can modify modem settings for internet access, collect passwords and other sensitive data, and transmit them to criminals. One of their tricks is redirecting the browser to unwanted websites, which can have serious consequences.
- Adware is a category of malicious code that collects information about your internet habits. This information is then passed on to various advertising agencies, which use it to display targeted ads and send spam.
Spyware and adware differ from viruses and worms as they cannot spread automatically to other computers. They require your interaction or malicious installation to become activated.
- Trojans are another category of harmful programs that disguise themselves as legitimate software. When a user installs such a program, a Trojan is simultaneously installed, enabling the attacker to gain control over the computer. Be cautious when downloading and installing programs from untrustworthy sources.
Protect Your Computer from Spyware, Adware, and Trojans by regularly updating your antivirus software, exercising caution when downloading and installing programs, and browsing the internet carefully. By doing so, you will increase the security of your data and reduce the risk of abuse.
How to Protect and Keep Your Data Safe
- Regularly monitor your credit card activity and review bills before payment. Remove unnecessary accounts from your wallet to reduce the risk in case of loss or theft.
- Only provide your tax number when absolutely necessary. Be cautious when someone requests this information, as it is often abused.
- Use shredders or document destroyers to destroy important documents containing personal information. Dispose of expired credit cards, bills, bank statements, and medical records properly.
- Use your full name when signing documents. Ensure that the information on all documents and bills is consistent. Sign only in designated areas and never sign blank pages.
- Read the business and data storage policy before confirming a purchase on a website. Avoid websites that do not disclose such conditions. Pay attention to secure connections and data encryption.
- If you have concerns about your bank account, call the customer support line of your bank. Regularly review bank statements and be vigilant for any discrepancies. Be cautious of emails from banks or online stores with which you do not conduct business.
- Personally deliver sensitive mail to a post office instead of dropping it in a mailbox. Ask a neighbor or friend to empty your mailbox if you are not at home.
- Familiarize yourself with the data retention policy of your company. Inquire about how and where they store your data and how they handle sensitive information.
- Use strong passwords for your accounts:
- Avoid using the same password as your username.
- Avoid passwords found in dictionaries or composed of commonly used words.
- Avoid using personal information such as your name, surname, or date of birth in your password.
- Include both letters and numbers in your password.
- Use a password that is as long as possible but still memorable and difficult to guess.
- Do not store passwords on sticky notes or in easily accessible forms.