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Personal Information: A tale of blackmail, extortion and coercion

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Without realizing it, many people are opening the cyber doors for hackers, by providing sensitive information which can be used against them. Any data that is distinguishable and can be identified as you personally, such as medical, relationships, financial and employment information may already be available online for hackers to use for malicious gain. Using your personal information, fraudsters can drain bank accounts and even steal your identity.

In the cyber security world, data is comparable to gold. Your personal information is often sold on to the highest bidder without consideration on what the third party may use that information for. For instance, data mining is hugely significant to the retail world. Data mining is the process in which large amounts of data is studied to analyze patterns, which then can be used to gain an insight on customer trends and relationships. This in turn will influence future operations, business models and even the pricing of the business.

This first example I can share with you highlights the importance of mitigating the chance of your personal messages being recorded and used against you. Criminals can exploit any weakness and vulnerability that they can find, especially information they know that can be harmful to you or your business’s reputation.

A well respected and valued director of a large business quickly formed what he thought was a strong bond with one of his employees. For a long period of time, they continued to message each other, exchanging intimate messages, phone calls and video chats. What seemed like an innocent relationship quickly turned sour when the employee confronted the director, demanding $25,000 to prevent the explicit images and texts from being released to the public. The director knew that if this information would come to light, it could spell serious trouble for not only his business, but also his own personal reputation. Believing that the employee would destroy the evidence, the director submitted to the monetary demand. After receiving the payment, the employee leaked the images anyway. This was inevitably detrimental to his business’ reputation, and unable to break even, the director took his own life.

The next example pinpoints the importance of securing your personal and business messages. Examples of this would be using a VPN or an encrypted network to mitigate the chance of interception.

A woman, who wasn’t cyber security aware, connected to a public WIFI to send some important business documents to a colleague. It is important to remember that there is always a risk when connecting to public networks, as these public networks are not secure and there are many ways for hackers to infiltrate and sometimes even clone these public networks. This is exactly what happened to the woman. Unfortunately, a hacker was able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack and was able to intercept the traffic and was able to steal the business documents. The hacker was then able to sell these documents on to a rival company which cost the business millions, and led to the woman's termination.

It therefore is important to remember what data you are sharing and how you are sharing this data. A secure communication solution such as Squealock Stealth Messenger was specifically designed to protect users against self-incrimination, cyber breaches, and help shrink your digital footprint by making use of changeable user identifiers and permanently destroying all traces of messages once they are read. While the concept of the application might seem a little foreign to the novice user who is used to the usual chat application, I find it to be actually very easy to use and worth trying for those who are looking for an all in one solution that addresses the issues I highlighted in this article.

Posted by Natasha Jones
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