Sharing and geotagging photos, uploading documents to the cloud, installing a new application, and even browsing online retail stores – we deal with personal data management daily, whether we realize it or not. Often, it is not clear what data we share, and most importantly, who are the final recipients of the data that makes us vulnerable. One of the threats that online users of all ages, professions, and backgrounds face is doxing – the practice of gathering personal information with the purpose of publishing it or using it in some other way to harm somebody. To help users take back control of their data and protect them from doxing, Kaspersky privacy experts have developed a comprehensive checklist on how to handle one’s private data responsibly, without it becoming a headache.
Kaspersky research shows that looking after private data has finally become a mainstream concern, with 50% of consumers claiming they would no longer use an online service provider following a data breach, and 57% expressing worry about their security and privacy being affected by ‘smart’ and internet-connected devices. This concern is justified because online users face data risks on a daily basis.
We are still learning exactly how to build our relationships with technology, so we can better trust it with our personal data, as well as use it more mindfully to avoid potential anxiety or burnout. For example, the innocent photo of a teen with a newly issued ID may end up in the hands of financial scammers, and emotional messages directed to friends – seen and reported by a stranger as radical and offensive. Your photos from the latest party might surface online without approval and your kid’s smartwatch might be broadcasting their live location 24/7.
While some of the risks – such as data leaks and ransomware attacks on organizations – are largely beyond a user’s control, other threats, such as doxing, can be tackled by users themselves. Doxing is made possible because there are so many public channels (forums, social media, and application records) where user data gets exposed, but that can be prevented.
Digital risks do not mean that users should stop expressing themselves online – and it certainly is not something that most people are willing to do anyway. Technology and innovation should improve lives, and strengthen our mental welfare. As such, digital wellbeing should be a top priority for all, especially during the challenging time we live in. This is why digital citizens need to learn how to treat personal data online responsibly – similarly to how we treat our finances and take care of physical belongings.
Kaspersky privacy experts, with help from external experts, created a short guide that will ease the risks and stress of data loss and diminish doxing potential for a user. The checklist, which is split into three sections, addresses how to treat the data we do and do not control, such as browser activity and application tracking, and other people’s data that you may come across. By providing users with the right knowledge and tools to help navigate the internet safely, they can become empowered and experience less digital stress, to enjoy technology, worry-free.
“With our lives being so intertwined with the digital world, it is no wonder that we face online threats so regularly. Tools for self-expression can also be used against us, with doxing continuing to gain popularity as a way to punish and hurt people. Unfortunately, it is not possible to control everything that exists online about us, but it is definitely a good idea to take some steps towards it. To keep one’s data safe and alleviate the risks, we need to become mindful about who we share our data with and how, and to take certain precautions in order to keep control over it. Luckily, precautions are in part resolved by installing and managing the right privacy tools, such as password managers or privacy-enabling browser extensions. With this checklist, we hope to provide users with a simple, easy-to-grasp way of keeping their personal data safer – and helping their close ones do the same”, comments Anna Larkina, a senior security expert at Kaspersky.
“Data hygiene is a form of self-care. Accepting the reality that there is risk connecting with people, online or off, is a great first step towards a better digital security plan. When we raise the bar on our own digital privacy and security, we are also doing our part to care for others that we connect with. The more we are able to humanize the digital aspects of our lives, the less daunting those first few steps can be towards raising the bar. This checklist is a great place to start”, says Daly Barnett, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.