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The value of data has been a hot topic for media organisations across the globe. That being said, it is an incredibly broad topic, with various avenues, some of which aren't fully covered by mainstream media authorities.
One particular area that should be of interest to many modern device users as we delve further into this digital age, is the proliferation of mobile device and PC hacking. Hacking is becoming less of a mystical craft and more accessible to tech-savvy folk who have a desire to learn.
However, the unfortunate reality is that there is a small yet powerful and highly motivated subsection of the world's population of hackers who use their knowledge for malevolent purposes, harvesting personal user and device data to commit cybercrimes.
But what exactly can hackers learn about you from your device and user data? We'll be exploring the answer to this increasingly important question today.
If you're already using security software or network security measures like a VPN in Australia, you have a fair understanding of exactly how valuable your user and device data is, either from a lived experience with a phishing attack, or through hearing cautionary tales.
Of course, anecdotal information presented to you on evening TV news programmes can feel removed from reality and perhaps even aggrandised at times. Sadly, however, plenty of the stories you hear about mobile phone users experiencing identity theft and even financial losses due to phone hacking are entirely possible, and most likely have happened, even to people you know.
For hackers, unearthing data can take on many different forms, from gaining access to a user's geographic location and network information by simply identifying their IP address, to accessing personal files like images or even text message or email threads stored on mobile devices as a means of unearthing personal information like your date of birth or credit card details.
In truth, any level of personal data available can be used by hackers to produce a profile on your identity.
The more personal information you provide in texts, emails, and on social media, the more fleshed out your user profile will be to third parties. And with each little bit of information that they are able to add to their profile on you, the more vulnerable you're likely to become to phishing attacks.
As a general rule, cybersecurity experts advise that no sensitive personal information be readily accessible by the act of somebody being able to unlock your mobile device.
This means that you shouldn't keep personal records like photos of your driver's licence or other forms of identification on your phone without any encryption methods. Encrypted cloud storage options are recommended for those who need to keep electronic copies of personal records nearby.
Alongside this, investing in security software for your personal devices (mobiles, laptops, PCs, and tablets) can help keep you protected against malware online and ensure that you can detect any malicious content when it comes your way as you browse the web. Maintaining a secure network connection wherever possible by using network security measures like firewalls and VPNs is also key.
Doing so can help hide device data that may, in turn, help keep your own personal data hidden from prying eyes.
In essence, anything that you can potentially obscure from third party observers, you absolutely should, as any amount of personal data can be used in a text, email, or phone scams.
Unsuspecting individuals can and have knowingly given their own personal data to scammers and hackers, resulting in cases of digital fraud and other common forms of cybercrime.
Cases of cybercrime have well and truly been on the rise over the past few years in particular, with industry analysts asserting that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on how we use our devices in our day-to-day lives have naturally led to millions if not billions of device users being more vulnerable now than ever before to phishing attacks.
One particular evolution in the ways we use our personal tech has been incredibly damaging, both to individuals as well as to their wider communities.
The shift from working in the office to working from home forced many professionals to use their personal devices to access organisational resources and thus, sensitive company data. As a result, hackers who were able to gain remote access to the personal devices of any individual working for an organisation, could then potentially use that device as an entry point into the digital heart of a company itself.
So how do modern professionals who may be WFH or even working remotely on an ongoing basis ensure that their work devices stay secure and play no role in large-scale data breaches?
Using the security measures we've already outlined above will provide remote workers of today with great peace of mind that they'll be doing their part in protecting sensitive business data.
This isn't, however, just the responsibility of independent device users alone. Corporations can also help protect themselves by ensuring that their remote workers are equipped with all the right digital tools and resources to keep themselves and their devices safe as they work online.
Companies can also encourage staff to practice forward-thinking security initiatives, like using multifactor authentication methods when accessing all company accounts and resources online, and limiting personal browsing on devices that are primarily used for conducting business.
It could be good to purchase yourself a new work computer and claim it as a business expense on your next tax return!
There's one final piece to this head scratcher of a puzzle, ensuring that young people also learn the lessons we must teach ourselves as digital technologies continue to develop at an ever-increasing pace.
Younger generations have grown up with the internet at their fingertips since they've been in cots and car seats. Of course, ensuring that your children understand the risks of surfing the web goes so much further than simply explaining the ramifications of making in-app purchases to them.
Digital natives are just as vulnerable to falling victim to cybercrimes as their less than tech-savvy parents, especially if they're unaware of just how far hackers can make small tidbits of personal user information go with regard to phishing scams. For this reason, equipping kids with even a basic understanding of how to spot phishing scams can work wonders when it comes to helping them, and your wider household or school, stay safe online.
Data breaches can happen at any time, and they don't necessarily need to be triggered by device users themselves. Hackers target businesses and even tech companies like cloud storage agencies on a regular basis, and any data breach has the potential to trickle down to an individual level.
There are no entirely foolproof methods for staying safe online, so the best approach is a highly dynamic one that consists of multiple security measures. The perfect security solution is also not likely to be static, so you should feel confident changing your security measures up whenever and however you feel comfortable doing so.