With everything going on in the world, we are always hearing about data breaches and cyber threats.  Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new, it’s just in the forefront of the news and top of everyone’s mind. When looking at digital privacy, there are two realms in which everything occurs, the public domain through data brokers and the dark web.  

With this concern in mind, we recently spoke with Tommy Ragsdale from 360 Privacy to discuss these issues, hear his insights on the key threats to be aware of, and his top ideas on keeping your data as secure as possible.  Below is a summary of our conversation. If you want to see the full video, click HERE.

Data Brokers

In the public domain, there are what’s known as data brokers who are one of the main sources for data transferring hands. These are business entities whose purpose is to collect as much data about individuals as possible and then resell or license it. This information can be compiled into bulk data lists which are sold for target marketing purposes. Information on these lists can range from a person’s age and location, to purchase history and interests.

Data brokers also accumulate information to resell on a personal level. This information is sold to well known ‘people-search’ sites such as Whitepages and Peoplefinder. These sites allow users to access personal information on a specific person based on their name, phone number or even social security number. The information available on these sites are the same as the bulk data listed above but may also include information such as social-media profiles.

When it comes to removing personal information from data brokers, there are services available such as 360 Privacy, which go in and erase one’s digital footprint. However, removal isn’t the challenging part, it’s maintaining the data not being available. Every time you sign up for a website, enter in your email for a discount, or even create a shopping membership at your local store, the collection process is restarted again.

Dark Web

The dark web is the other place where personal information can be available and unlike data brokers, this isn’t in the public domain. The term dark web gets used specifically with nefarious intent, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but what exactly is the dark web? The dark web is part of the internet that requires special tools and skills to access and isn’t available on your standard web search platform.

You’ve probably heard about a corporate breach of information where user’s login credentials were exposed. This information would land on the dark web, and not with data brokers. Credentials are purchased through the dark web, because as humans, we typically reuse the same credentials for multiple sites. Along with credentials, other information available includes personal identifiable information such as addresses, bank account numbers and even social security numbers.

Unlike data brokers, erasing information on the dark web is near impossible. Once your information is out, the best course of action is to take mitigating steps. This can range from changing passwords, to creating new bank accounts or even getting a new credit card issued.

What can you do to protect yourself?

While there is nothing is going to be 100% effective, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Be proactive instead of reactive. By having less exposure, or information out with data brokers, you could receive fewer scam emails and phishing attempts.

Know what you’re agreeing to. Read the data policy in agreements, if they say they can sell your information, they probably will.

Verify permissions on devices. Not every app needs every permission turned on as they may request more than is needed. See what is collecting data that could be resold and adjust.

Turn your device off once a week. This allows updates to fully install if a restart was needed and helps clear caches.

Unique password for every login. Use different passwords for each login or utilize a password manager or generator to minimize access to multiple sites if your information makes it to the dark web.

Security question answers. There isn’t a database that companies verify your answers to security questions such as your mother’s maiden name and what street you grew up on.  False information won’t get rejected.

Provide a different phone number. While phone numbers can be verified when used for signing up or creating accounts, consider using a VOIP such as a google voice number instead of your personal number.

Use credit freeze’s instead of a Credit Monitoring service. Be wary of monitoring service such as LifeLock since they may not be able to see all information. Additionally, they are taking in your information and compiling it with others, and this may be enticing to bad actors.

In the digital would we live in; we all have a certain level of exposure to our information being accessible on the internet. By taking steps to know, control and minimize what information is out there, you can potentially decrease your exposure to cyber threats such as phishing scams and identity theft.

For more information on 360 Privacy visit their website https://360privacy.io/

Tommy Ragsdale and 360Privacy are separate entities and not affiliated with Integrated Partners and konvergent wealth partners.

Integrated Financial Partners, doing business as konvergent wealth partners, a registered investment advisor. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.