Identity theft is no joke. Here’s how to protect yourself.
We live in a digital world, which means data is one of the most valuable assets you can have right now.
Over the years, the world has digitally transformed in ways that were once unimaginable.
There has been a paradigm shift in the way consumers interact with technology – which has proven beneficial but has also exposed consumers to risks such as identity theft.
As the dark web grows, user data is sold on the dark web at very low prices, some even cheaper than a hamburger.
New research from NordVPN, a VPN service from cybersecurity firm Nord Security, has found that criminals can buy Canadian payment card data for as little as $6.91 and log into Twitter for as little as $2. $74.
Now you might be wondering why anyone would want to buy your credit card data or your Twitter data. What harm can it do?
A lot, in fact.
Steve Wilson, head of the BCIT Center for Digital Transformation and cybersecurity expert, said that in the digital age, identity is paramount and “data is the new oil”.
First, what is the dark web?
The dark web is a hidden part of the World Wide Web. While the World Wide Web is accessible to everyone, the Dark Web can only be accessed using a special browser.
The dark web is home to a lot of illegal activity and may seem like an intimidating and haunted place, but it’s not.
Wilson said the dark web operates like a regular marketplace where people buy and sell — in this case, data — at cheap prices.
“There’s a certain reputation for people dealing with products on the dark web, and it’s almost like a customer satisfaction scale,” he explained.
“For example, if you bought, say, 50 credit cards on the dark web and then resell that. Some cards do not work. Honestly the customer service is so good they say “if you have a few cards that don’t work let us know”. And we will refund you and send you additional card information.
It’s all about reputation for sellers on the dark web. Once trust is established, hackers list all kinds of data on the dark web for people to buy cheaply.
The easier it is to obtain an item, the cheaper it is. That’s why, according to NordVPN’s research, a Canadian passport costs only $9.47 on the dark web. You can get anything from a college ID card to voter emails on the dark web.
Experts say that once the data is in the wrong hands, the criminal can use it for his own benefit. At best, it could be used to, for example, access a streaming account. In most cases, the identity is compromised and the criminal tries to impersonate the victim and scam the money.
Cybercrime Prevention: Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October marks Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and digital and cybersecurity experts around the world are trying to educate consumers about protection before data is leaked and identities are compromised.
“Cybercrime is on the rise, and we need to educate ourselves if we want to stay safe,” NordVPN cybersecurity expert Daniel Markuson said in a press release.
Wilson said cybercrime is more advanced than an average person thinks.
“It’s not like people throwing away, rummaging through your trash cans, looking for information,” he said. “It’s not high school kids in a basement somewhere trying to hack for fun. It’s organized, it’s extremely well organized, because there’s so much money available in this space right now. So they take a lot of time and effort to scour and get your information and because they know it has value.
Having worked in law enforcement investigating fraud and technology crime for more than 10 years, he said that everything we touch these days has a digital component, and that cybersecurity and privacy are fundamental elements of any kind of digital transformation.
The best practice to prevent your identity from being compromised is prevention, he explained.
“Everyone is subject to this – they had their personal information stolen, or their accounts accessed and/or their identity used for nefarious purposes.”
Stolen Data Helps Cybercriminals Create Identities
Wilson explained that people can take data (even data that you think has little value) and create sock puppets — starting with creating profiles, a persona. Then they can use the stolen identity to open legitimate products like bank accounts and mortgages, and buy vehicles to resell overseas. It all starts with the dark web, where these transactions take place.
“I’ve heard of cases where people on the west coast have had their identities stolen and used by organized crime groups on the east coast,” he said. “They were basically using these people’s information to buy real estate. So it’s not just about knowing when they’re not paying their mortgage. The legitimate person on the West Coast has had their identity compromised. If they look at their credit report, it will basically show that they are the ones who defaulted on their mortgage. And that’s what a lot of people don’t understand is that it sounds crazy. And that’s fine, I’m just going to phone them and say that’s not true. It’s not that easy. In some cases. I know people have spent years trying to get their credit back and say, “Well wait, that’s not me.” But yes, identity is everything.
Your identity is therefore compromised. Now what?
So the criminal spends $5 for your data. What are the consequences for him? Wilson said there were little to no consequences for criminals. Most of the time, he observed, perpetrators can be anywhere in the world, with nothing but a digital footprint.
He explains that the chances of recovery and prosecution are slim, but when your identity is compromised, the stakes are higher for you.
“In all my years, I’ve only heard of one case where people got funds back, and it was a minor amount – like they lost a few hundred thousand dollars, and I think they got $9,000 back,” he said.
“There are many people who fall victim to this identity theft or even online romance scams, and they have lost a substantial amount of money and become embarrassed, helpless and often commit suicide. So it sort of goes down to the level of importance.
“When you think of identity theft, if you think of the UK, they’re much more proactive than we are with identity theft legislation and resources for law enforcement and even proactive with the education, whereas in Canada it’s still not considered a major public issue, so it’s not getting the attention it should.
Global implications for cybersecurity
To prevent big data leaks from large enterprises and government agencies, cyber teams around the world are working to explore strategies to prepare in case of a cyberattack.
In the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, conducted by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, Denmark excels in the ranking that measures how well economies explore and adapt to new technologies. The ranking measures the ability and readiness of 63 economies to embrace and explore digital technologies as a key driver of economic transformation for businesses, governments and society at large.
Canada placed 10th.
Cybersecurity measures were noted as a top priority for both the public and private sectors in the ranking. One of the key findings published in the 2022 edition of the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking by IMD’s World Competitiveness Center (WCC) was that governments and the private sector must protect their digital infrastructure from cyberattacks if they are to continue in the digital race. competitive economies.
Cybercrime protection starts at home
It’s a problem with massive international implications – but it all starts here, in front of your own personal device.
Wilson emphasizes that this is the basics and that it all starts simply. He advises the public to spend some time researching the best ways to set up passwords – something as simple as I love cats and I have four at homesomething easy to remember — and use different passwords for different accounts.
He also suggested staying away from public WiFis (and using VPNs instead), especially when ordering online and/or using credit card information on a public server, which is easier to hack. .
He himself would keep his passwords in an encrypted drive stored in an offline safe. But the most important advice he has for everyone is to shred offline paper documents and destroy digital discs.
“If it’s on a server somewhere, just because you said ‘delete’ doesn’t mean it can’t be recovered. You’re thinking digital forensics,” he said.
“You know what I usually say to people when they say they’re carrying USB drives and they have external drives they don’t use anymore or they have laptops they want to send for recycling , I tell people to take the discs out – get a drill and smash them in. Just to make sure there’s no way anyone can get to them.
After all, the World Economic Forum has pointed out that 95% of cybersecurity issues are caused by human error.
Five dollars spent by a criminal on the dark web can have far greater implications if your identity is stolen.