Online identity theft continues to plague consumers worldwide. As technology enables greater cooperation and sharing, it also exposes that valuable information to increased risk of theft or abuse.
Numerous high-profile data breaches of trusted organizations, and even governments, mean your information is likely already exposed and available on the black market. You can check if your email has been exposed quickly on Have I Been Pwned, a free online resource that aggregates and allows you to search data breach info. With your data constantly proliferating across the digital landscape, identity theft experiences are on the rise. If you are lucky enough to never have had it happen, it is only a matter of time. This may leave you feeling vulnerable, because identity theft can often lead to cascading economic, social, and sometimes legal ramifications.
Mount Your Defense
The best way to protect yourself from this malicious behavior is to mount an active defense. Recognize and take stock of your valuable data both digitally and physically. Implement sensible safeguards that ensure controls are in place to protect your information.
Treat It Like a Trade Secret
According to court documents from a recent trade secret theft case involving Coca-Cola, the beverage giant takes its famous secret formula very seriously. Workers are routinely subjected to security checks while surveillance cameras dot every corner of the building. The formula itself is supposedly locked in a multi-million dollar vault; only two people on Earth know it, and they fly on separate planes when traveling in case of an accident. Without the same legal protections as trademarked or patented content, corporate trade secrets are held in the utmost of confidence to ensure their safety from competitors, criminals, and unauthorized employees.
While all this security and secrecy is likely excessive for your Gmail password or banking credentials, there is no reason the mindset should not be the same. Personal data is just as much your livelihood as any company’s trade secrets. Although this could mean sacrificing the convenience of a sticky note full of passwords next to your desktop, it’s vital to minimize risks with a cautious sense of your own paper and digital trail. Balancing confidentiality with availability is a key component of risk management strategy and will help inform your choices online.
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