Your Identity in digital/cyber world

All your personal information like your name, address, email id etc., which relates to you and through which you can be identified and tracked in cyber space is your identity in digital world.

Mobiles, internet, emails, etc., are all part of digital world.  Every device/technology you come across, which makes your life easier can put your information at risk in digital world.

What is Identity Theft?

Stealing or misuse of your personal or social identifying information like : Name, Phone Number, School details, Email-ID, Date of birth, Address, Identity card number, Aadhaar card details, Passport details, Travel details, Bank account details, Fingerprints, Voice sample etc.,  is identity theft.

Why is it important?

Identity theft can happen to anyone at any point of time. It can take many forms and shapes. It can cause a potential damage to you and loss of hard earned money of your parents/family. You are always cautious to protect yourselves in the physical world. Same caution is needed to protect yourself in the cyber world too. Cyber world is as good as physical world and equally risky if necessary steps are not taken. In fact you should take extra precautionary and preventive steps to protect yourselves and your family and friends in digital space. Protecting your identity is your responsibility. Today cyber world has reached to an extent that we cannot stop or cure the problems/cybercrimes, thus it is always better to protect yourselves from these crimes before it happens to you. Prevention is always better than cure.

How does an identity theft take place?

Mentioned below are the different sources from which the cyber criminals exploit the different vulnerabilities to steal individual’s identity.

  • Data entered in survey forms given in restaurants, lucky draw coupons, at shopping malls/movie theaters requesting personal information.
  • Data shared when you casually speak on phone or directly about your personal and family topics in public places with your friends and family, unaware that fraudster may be watching and listening to our conversation and use this information for fraud activities.
  • Data entered after shopping at super markets and medical stores and retail chains in malls.
  • Data collected through mails/messages promising some benefit in the form of cash prize/ lottery/job offers through email/WhatsApp/SMS. They send mails with logos similar to the original websites making them feel like authorized one. They may ask you to click on a link which redirects to another page, where you are asked to give your personal sensitive information like passwords, OTPs etc.
  • Criminals may access your private information from online shopping portals, e-commerce sites and online bank accounts and use that information against you for self-benefit.
  • Identity thief casually goes through different profiles in social media through a fake account. From the profiles they select a few gullible targets for attacking. They send ‘friend’ request to initiate a relationship and try to gain trust through chatting. After gaining trust they get hold of sensitive personal information from the potential targets.
  • Data in government registers or public records which are improperly handled.
  • Criminals try to retrieve information from computer servers that is not secured or monitored properly. They may access routers, through ports which are configured improperly or opened unknowingly, or have weak password which are vulnerable to identity thefts.
  • Stealing of personal information can happen through malware. Malware can be sent through mail/SMS/WhatsApp link. Malwares can be in different forms like Viruses, Spyware, Rootkits, Remote Access Tools, etc.,
  • Stealing personal information from smart credit/debit or other smart payment cards (like shopping, gift cards etc.) can be read through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) device without even physical contact with the card.

How to protect yourself from Identity Theft?

Mentioned below are few tips and measures, to help you protect your identity and build up best practices for benefiting from the cyber world safely.  

  • Always use strong passwords that are difficult to guess with combination of characters, numbers & alphabets for your mobile, computer, and all other digital devices or applications.
  • Keep changing your password and ensure that you use different passwords.
  • Avoid browsing websites that are not trust worthy, also avoid clicking suspicious links, text messages as they can be a trap for Identity theft.
  • Never give away your personal & confidential information like passwords, account numbers, PIN numbers, etc., over the phone or through email.
  • Never write your personal and confidential information on papers, books, mobile notes etc.,
  • Carry duplicate copies of important documents like Identity Cards, License, to minimize the damage in case of physical theft.
  • To protect your digital assets ensure the following:
    • Strong Firewalls
    • VPN for outside access
    • Scheduled malware and virus scans
    • Automatic windows and other software updates
    • Secured wireless networks
    • Protecting/limiting the physical access to your computer
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