Data Privacy Day

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This is a critical time for our personal security as it relates to privacy and personal information. A battle is being waged over our data, and there are several parties involved in this fight. My concern is securing the personal details that you would prefer to keep private.

Criminal hackers and identity thieves want to use your name to open new accounts, which they can turn into cash. They may try to obtain credit cards, utility services, or mobile phones using your good credit. In other cases, these same thieves take over existing bank or credit card accounts and clean them out entirely. An average of more than ten million people a year are affected by identity theft.

Online, advertisers and marketers are using “supercookies” to glean information about you and your web browsing habits. They can then offer you products or services based on the profile they’ve developed. Almost every major website contains cookies, and they are changing the way advertising is created and targeted.

The FTC is working on coming up with a way for you to opt out of this data collection, but if a change ever does take place, it will probably be futile. The advertising industry has already partnered with major media and major tech companies, and it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to turn back the clock.

Social media companies compete for your attention and your information because user data is valuable to advertisers and marketers. Whatever you post in your profile is broken down, cataloged, and disseminated. Your name, age, address, email, phone number, contacts, income status, job description, and so on are of use to anyone targeting your wallet.

But legitimate advertisers aren’t the only ones going after social networks. Criminal hackers and identity thieves are accessing your data, either through the public portion of these sites, or by hacking through the back door. The bad guy is using your profile information to come up with an answer to your password reset question, or to trick you into opening your wallet or entering login credentials that might allow them to take over your existing accounts.

Protect yourself.

You can turn cookies off in your browser settings. That may prevent you from using certain websites, but it is a step toward privacy.

Limit the amount of information you share in social media. While transparency seems to be the current trend, you should recognize the potential for your data to be used against you.

Secure the private data on your smartphone and PC or Mac by using McAfee security products.

Invest in McAfee Identity Protection, which includes proactive identity surveillance to monitor subscribers’ credit and personal information, as well as access to live fraud resolution agents who help subscribers work through the process of resolving identity theft issues. For additional tips, please visit CounterIdentityTheft.com.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him explain how a person becomes an identity theft victim on CounterIdentityTheft.com

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