February 23, 2011

How safe is your personal data?

2 minute read

I recently had a horrible thing happen to me. My personal email account that I use mainly to keep up with friends, family and ex work colleagues was hijacked and my contacts list used to send a rather salacious message to one and all. It connected friends, family and professional contacts in an email containing information about Viagra. Most people spotted it immediately for what it was but my Mother was bafled, as a recent email adopter. It felt rather like being burgled, that similar sense that someone has been in your house without permission, a real violation of privacy.

But a lot of us have been affected by identity theft – a third of us in the UK have had our cards fraudulently used by someone else, much higher than in most other European nations (and it’s even higher in London). There are 27% more identity frauds than there were two years ago. And it is costing the UK economy £1billion every year.

And they are happening in more and more places. It could be your bank account, your card, mail order account, mobile phone or any other electronic / digital profile.

A poll of 970 UK adults, part of the bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, reveals that cyber-security is the public’s chief concern, with 85% of respondents “worried”, and over 50% “seriously concerned”, about bank card fraud and identity theft. (Brits switching banks over security and privacy concerns – Unisys)

But it’s not confined just to consumers.

A significant 54% of businesses have been victims of fraud or online crime in the last twelve months: 37% had an issue with phishing emails. 15% were victim to card not present fraud and 15% experienced IT system issues (such as viruses, hacking, etc). (Federation of Small Businesses – February 2009.)

Being online is like being in public, but because we often do it in private and sitting at a screen it doesn’t feel like that, it feels secure and safe. And we tend to trust the social networking sites, banks and email providers to protect our identity. I think the thing I found recently was that they simply can’t. People have become cleverer about how they go about invading your world in all the places that you are transacting or interacting with others.

A piece of advice that I thought was good was “In order to safeguard our identities we need to start treating our identity in the same way we treat our property or our private lives”. (Richard Hurley CIFAS Communications Manager)

Of course when my email was taken over I contacted Yahoo, my provider for some answers. They came back with a stock reply and told me how to improve security levels, which I’d already done. But I didn’t think they took it very seriously and was disappointed with the lack of importance they placed on something that was a real violation against me and my friends / family and contacts.

It is increasingly important to manage your own online data. The European Commission has called for individuals to have more control of their personal data online. Just think about where you store personal information about yourself: Linkedin, facebook, flickr, online banking, online credit cards, online shopping sites and so on and so on.

This recent incident of my email hijack has made me much more aware of what I’m doing online, what data I store there and how I look after its security. I’ve realised how important my personal data is to me, have a think about yours…

Posted by Ikano Insight


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How safe is your personal data?