Collecting data when you are browsing or by tracking your digital footprints is not ethical. But most of the online companies do it anyway in the pretext of improving your internet experience. Some data regarding what you are interested in is collected using cookies every time you visit a website leading to over 10 Billion worth of transactions on the dark web.
Clicking on the generic “Accept all” button when a popup occurs explaining about cookies designed to provide no form of understanding to its users, leads to data tracking in the form of
- A person’s general interest
- What they usually browse about
- The products they are interested to buy
The marketers use the collected data to map what sort of
- Topic related extension information can be provided to the user
- What products might they be interested in buying?
- Understanding the general interests of the majority of customers visiting a website
- What sort of display ads on the website will be beneficial to those viewers?
Such targeted marketing won’t affect the users much if it stops there. But the marketing companies go further to collect demographic information of the customers visiting their websites like the viewer’s age, job, earning capacity, spending habits, credit card details, etc. They do this to showcase products people can buy on the websites they browse.
The black web and its function of selling “crime as a service” comes into use at this place. The dark web hackers get their hands on as much information as possible and sell it to the marketers.
Email Address is the Base
For example, you give your email address to a website when you visit them first to register, receive their newsletters, or an attractive free download which you will probably never read or use.
The dark web hackers collect data of a typical person in three different ways keeping this email address as the base.
They launch a significant attack on huge companies with details of millions of people and steal all the records. We can state the data breach of Equinox, which compromised the data of nearly 140 million people, as the best example.
The data of these people will not get used immediately. But it will sell on the dark web as “fullz”, listing a person’s name, email address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, social security number, etc.
- The cost of a “fullz” detail ranges from $8 to $25 and sometimes around $40 based on the person’s earning capacity.
- The harmless marketers buying the information track potential buyers’ browsing habits and target them based on their earning status.
- The potential harmers buy this data and use it for identity theft. They give all the details ideally and get government benefits, tax refunds, and loans under the victim’s name.
- Stealing and exposing insurance details in “fullz” leads to spammers getting treatment using your insurance policy.
- Sometimes, they use the excellent credit score you have amassed and your bank account details to buy substantial real estate properties and sell them to others within no time.
- They create several fake licenses using the details collected online, and the criminals use the fake licenses if they get into trouble.
- They use this identity to create fake passports and travel to different countries illegally under your name.
Prevention of Data Collection by Online Companies
- Always use browser plugins to erase your cookies regularly and hide your browsing tracks. Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin, and HTTPS Everywhere are some famous plugins. ClearURLs and PixelBlock also work fine.
- Do not enter your original date of birth and mother’s maiden name on all the websites. Give fake details and use only original details for the bank, insurance, and other vital services.
- Use incognito mode or secure search engines that do not track your details, like Tor. It will help in keeping your details untracked to a certain extent.
- Use a web proxy or a VPN service if you are browsing something sensational or confidential. Seek the help of your IT expert friends or check some good YouTube videos to learn about them.
- Be very careful in choosing your medical partner and ensure all your medical details are kept safe with them. Enquire about the steps they take to protect your data and check what compensation they will provide if your data gets leaked from your medical institution.
Data theft can happen offline, too, because of personal carelessness. Several people give out their details in several places, from country fairs to malls, participating in a competition, or winning something.
If the hackers get hold of your name, mobile, and email address, they use it to check your social media profile and find out about you, your parents, anв any other substantial information. A chain-link check will enable them to get hold of your mother’s maiden name easily.
Email address, DOB, social security number, and mother’s maiden name are enough to commit 90% of fraud using your identity. Quit exposing such details offline or disclosing them to strangers. If you befriend someone in a bar, a business meeting, or other means, check their identity using the Nuwber website. If you find out they’ve given you false info about themselves – stop communicating right away.
Always refrain from sharing your interests with total strangers you meet on the way, through dating websites, or on social events. Talk generally and ensure your conversation doesn’t reveal much about you at any costs.
Educate your family members and friends regarding the dangers of identity theft and guide them to stay cautious too. Ignore entering any suspicious websites or using new shopping websites. Use security software like McAfee to warn you when it senses a cookie tracking your web activity or entering a suspicious website.
Data protection is a severe issue in the modern world. It is up to every person to keep their personal and professional data safe. Technology provides various ways to do that effortlessly. Educate yourself, prevent oversharing online and stay alert offline to keep your data secure. Take efficient steps recommended by the experts to prevent online companies from tracking your data by using plugins, proxy, and VPN services.