In today’s “wired” world it is more important than ever for you to have the skills necessary to keep your private information private. While there is no way to totally eliminate your “digital footprint”, and don’t believe those people who say they can erase your “Online Presence”. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do so and ANYONE who says they can is LYING. But don’t fret young prepper; there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the risk you face from hackers, stalkers, government intrusion, and anyone else who may want your information.
In order for you to properly secure yourself online, you first have to recognize and be able to find who and what it is that you are protecting yourself from. You have to be able to see what it is that will be most likely to compromise your privacy, and be able to take the proper countermeasures. Most times you will not be able to react fast enough to handle what is happening once it has begun, but there are steps you can take to lower the risk of your personal information being compromised in the first place. In this series of articles we will give you the tips and information necessary to prevent it from happening in the first place.
There are a multitude of ways that can be used to gain unauthorized access to your personal and private information. Perhaps the easiest, and possibly the most used, form of information gathering is called “Social Engineering”.
In its simplest form “Social Engineering” is nothing more than conversation. The person (the social engineer) is gaining valuable information through what you see as a “casual conversation”. By engaging you in conversation the “social engineer” can learn things like you birthday, “No way! You’re only 27! I’m 27! I was born on March 4th, how about you?” Now he (or she) has your birth date. “Wow, you mom and dad have been married for 25 years. That’s awesome. What were they high school sweethearts or something?” Now they have the information they need to get your mother’s maiden name. By cross-referencing various databases they can find out her maiden name, often times in 5-10 minutes or less.
With just your date of birth and mother’s maiden name they can very often take over your bank accounts, credit cards, social media, etc. because most sites use that information to “authenticate” you are who you say you are. Now that doesn’t mean don’t talk to new people, it just means be aware of what they are asking you and always keep in the back of your mind that this nice new guy (or girl) may be using that “casual conversation” to gain the information they need to compromise your information.
Another, method used far more often, has much less risk (to the “social engineer”), and offers a treasure trove of information on everything from bank and credit card balances to how your colon health is, and has been around longer then the interwebs, is the “Dumpster Dive.
Don’t think for a second that if somebody wanted your information they would be above going through your trash or even recyclables to get one more piece of the puzzle that they need to compromise your information and safety.
The easiest and most prudent step that you can take to keep your information safe from dumpster divers is to shred (or better yet, burn) ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that could have any information about you. In other words, if it has your name on it, before it goes in the trash it needs to be destroyed to the point that all the kings men and all the kings horses couldn’t put it back together again, by shredding into confetti (secure) or by burning (the most secure).
The obvious things you want to destroy before they go into the trash (that is if you aren’t burning them) are bills that you’ve paid, credit card statements, or bank statements, information from your insurance company you don’t need to keep, and the less obvious things like the letters from your dear, old, Aunt Edna who you haven’t seen since she still had all of her own teeth. All of those things need to be destroyed before they go into the round file.
Now that you have a basic understanding of just some of the ways people can get your information you are better armed to protect your sensitive information. In future articles I’ll explain the ways that hackers and the government gather information on you from various networks and the ways that you can help yourself secure that information from prying eyes.
I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!
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