"I have nothing to hide" was once the standard response to surveillance programs utilizing cameras, border checks, and casual questioning by law enforcement.
Privacy used to be considered a concept generally respected in many countries with a few changes to rules and regulations here and there often made only in the name of the common good.
SEE: Meet the hackers who earn millions for saving the web, one bug at a time (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)
Things have changed, and not for the better.
China's Great Firewall, the UK's Snooper's Charter, the US' mass surveillance and bulk data collection -- compliments of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Edward Snowden's whistleblowing -- Russia's insidious election meddling, and countless censorship and communication blackout schemes across the Middle East are all contributing to a global surveillance state in which privacy is a luxury of the few and not a right of the many.
As surveillance becomes a common factor of our daily lives, privacy is in danger of no longer being considered an intrinsic right -- and it seems we, too, are adopting our own personal forms of online digital stalking and spying.
Everything from our web browsing to mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) products installed in our homes has the potential to erode our privacy and personal security, and you cannot depend on vendors or ever-changing surveillance rules to keep them intact.
Having "nothing to hide" doesn't cut it anymore. We must all do whatever we can to safeguard our personal privacy not only from agencies and companies but also from each other. Taking the steps outlined below can not only give you some sanctuary from spreading surveillance tactics but also help keep you safe from cyberattackers, scam artists, and a new, emerging issue: technological stalking.
See also: Best browser for privacy: Secure web browsing | Navigating data privacy | Gartner predicts privacy law changes, consolidation of cybersecurity services and ransomware laws for next 4 years
Data is a vague concept and can encompass such a wide range of information that it is worth breaking down different collections before examining how each area is relevant to your privacy and security.
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Known as PII, this can include your name, physical home address, email address, telephone numbers, date of birth, marital status, Social Security numbers (US)/National Insurance numbers (UK), and other information relating to your medical status, family members, employment, and education.
Why does it matter? All this data, whether lost in different data breaches or stolen piecemeal through phishing campaigns, can provide attackers with enough information to conduct identity theft, take out loans using your name, and potentially compromise online accounts that rely on security questions being answered correctly. In the wrong hands, this information can also prove to be a gold mine for advertisers lacking a moral backbone.
Read on: The biggest data breaches, hacks
Internet activity is monitored by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and can be hijacked. While there is little consumers can do about attacks at the ISP level, the web pages you visit can also be tracked by cookies, which are small bits of text that are downloaded and stored by your browser. Browser plugins may also track your activity across multiple websites.
Why does it matter? Cookies are used to personalize internet experiences and this can include tailored advertising. However, such tracking can go too far, as shown when the unique identifiers added to a cookie are then used across different services and on various marketing platforms. Such practices are often considered intrusive.
Also: 'Carpet-bombing' DDoS attack takes down South African ISP for an entire day | Hackers breached A1 Telekom, Austria's largest ISP | Here's how to enable DoH in each browser, ISPs be damned
Cyberwar and the Future of Cybersecurity
Today's security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions -- or even billions -- of dollars at risk when information security isn't handled properly.
Our email accounts are often the pathway that can provide a link to all our other valuable accounts, as well as a record of our communication with friends, families, and colleagues. As central hubs to other online services, hackers may try to obtain our passwords through credential stuffing, social engineering, or phishing scams in order to jump to other services.
Why does it matter? If an email account acts as a singular hub for other services, a single compromise can snowball into the hijack of many accounts and services.
In targeted attacks, fraudsters are using social engineering techniques to impersonate their victims in calls to telephone service providers. They do this in order to transfer a number away from a handset -- even if only for a short period of time -- and then 'own' the number for the time it takes to grab two-factor authentication (2FA) sent to the phone number and to access a target account, whether this is banking, email, or a cryptocurrency wallet.
Why does it matter? If your phone number ends up outside of your control, this means that 2FA codes can be stolen and any online account linked to this number is at risk of being hijacked.
When you conduct a transaction online, this information may include credentials for financial services such as PayPal, or credit card information including card numbers, expiry dates, and security codes.
Magecart campaigns are not possible to avoid by the average consumer as they take place on vulnerable e-commerce websites, with code injected into payment portals to skim and steal card data input by customers. Past victims of Magecart groups include Ticketmaster, Boom! Mobile, and British Airways.
Why does it matter? Cybercriminals who steal financial services credentials through phishing and fraudulent websites, who eavesdrop on your transactions through Man-in-The-Middle (MiTM) attacks, or who utilize card-skimming malware, can steal these details when they are not secured.
Once this information has been obtained, unauthorized transactions can be made, clone cards may be created, or this data may also be sold on to others in the Dark Web.
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