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External Data Privacy Matters

“In the age of rapid technology developments, there is a clear mismatch between the legal/regulatory frameworks and the challenges towards privacy.”

Hielke Hijmans

Why It’s Important?

As personal information spreads online, your external data privacy faces threats from hackers and unchecked data collection. While cybersecurity protects inside digital walls, vast sensitive data now resides outside, scattered and vulnerable.

Your externally exposed data—from social media activity to public records—forms the backbone of emerging social engineering and fraud techniques that can circumvent even robust cybersecurity efforts. This article explores how exposed external data enables emerging social engineering and fraud to bypass robust defenses.

The Dangers of Exposed Personal Information

Our digital profiles contain a wealth of data points that can be pieced together for malicious purposes – names, birth dates, photographs, browsing habits, and more. Massive databases of exposed credentials, profiles, and records are now common on the open and dark web, available to anyone willing to search for them. As reported by Statista, their 2022 Exposure Report found over 104.8 million people’s personally identifiable records openly accessible online, with compromised email addresses making up 98% of breached data.

This exponential proliferation of our scattered digital breadcrumbs fuels the rise of highly targeted frauds, scams, and identity theft. Criminals adeptly aggregate our personal information to create convincing fake identities and personify trusted brands. The data enables meticulously crafting messages and calls appearing to originate from banks, colleagues, friends or health providers for instance. This social engineering tricks victims into divulging sensitive information or downloading malware.

Tactics like ‘Doxing’ Weaponize Your Digital Footprint

Consider doxing, where malicious actors research and publish private or identifying information about a target for harassment or extortion. As Privacy Bee has covered, doxing relies on piecing together data from social media, public records, genealogy sites and more to enable stalking, swatting, damage to you reputation, and psychological trauma. Even private citizens can fall victim to having their home addresses, phone numbers, and photographs widely publicized alongside false accusations when personal data leaks online.

Swatting – A Deadly Consequence of Data Exposure

Swatting demonstrates the potentially deadly consequences of leaked personal information. As Privacy Bee has explored, swatting uses exposed names, addresses and phone numbers to make fake claims of violent criminal activity to emergency services. This summons SWAT teams or heavily armed police to innocent peoples’ homes, resulting in fatalities, privacy violations, and trauma. Victims have even been swatted based solely on their gamer tags or IP addresses.

The Limitations of Cybersecurity in Isolation

Cybersecurity remains invaluable, but has blind spots. Firewalls, malware protection and secure corporate networks have little sway over data publicly available outside those digital barriers. With billions of users online, personal information now resides scattered across websites, social media, and public records. Most is posted without clear consent. Proactively monitoring for and reclaiming control over exposed information is thus an essential complement to cybersecurity.

Social Engineering

Cyberthreats are evolving quicker than anticipated due to the lack of understanding of what external data privacy is. Cybersecurity is only capable of so much with VPNs, firewalls, and passwords being easily bypassed due to the lax safeguarding of one’s external data. People seldom neglect their external data since it wasn’t a particular concern until recently. With personal data and information being easily accessible to hackers and scammers, their jobs have become relatively easier.

If a hacker wanted to use your information against you, they could easily use social engineering methods to find a person’s home address if it wasn’t already exposed somewhere. With access to PII, hackers are able to bypass cybersecurity measures designed around password resets using simple questions like “What elementary school did you attend?” – information readily accessible on social media.

Attackers can also easily embed malicious links in emails and texts to extract key details like IP addresses, MAC addresses, and location with a single click. Having this intel allows cloning a target’s IP and MAC address to trick firewalls by appearing to be on the victim’s device or in their residence, bypassing 2FA.

AI speech synthesis further bolsters social engineering. With just 30 seconds of someone’s voice, an AI voice mask can convincingly transform a stranger into a familiar relative on the phone.

Data Brokers Fuel Exposure

Data brokers also play a significant role in fueling personal information spread, both intentionally and inadvertently. Firms like Acxiom, LexisNexis, and Oracle aggregate vast consumer data from public records, behavioral tracking, loyalty programs, and more. While enabling business insights, pervasive collection and opaque broker practices contribute to PII proliferation. Lax security has also led to major broker breaches.

Doxing Promoted on Shady Forums

Doxing thrives in online communities promoting harassment and hate. Forums like 4chan and Kiwi Farms treat doxing as entertainment, encouraging revealing everything from addresses to social security numbers. Targets are often women, people of color, and marginalized groups facing stalking, swatting, and suicide.

PII of Minors Also Being at Risk

Youth are especially susceptible to privacy invasion and abuse when personal information leaks online. Data brokers hold profiles on millions of children, while parents will often overshare on social media. Minors may also find themselves accidentally oversharing from their personal TikTok account, exposing personal information unintentionally. Child identity theft also continues rising as SSNs and birth certificates get compromised.

The Solution: External Data Privacy Protection

With these growing threats, cybersecurity alone is no longer enough. External data privacy services like Privacy Bee are critical to complement cyber defenses. Our services are critical for those that want to proactively monitor the web for compromised personal information, and provide tools to remove or opt-out of exposures. For individuals, Privacy Bee offers both free scanning to flag potential data leaks and an affordable premium plan submitting opt-out/deletion requests on your behalf.

With the exponential growth in external personal data exposure, relying solely on cybersecurity is insufficient. Integrating proactive monitoring and remediation of leaked information is crucial, especially for effectively safeguarding identities and reputations.

Safeguard your External Data Privacy starting with a FREE Privacy Scan now to see where you are at risk!