Data theft: definition

Data theft, also known as information theft, is the illegal transfer or storage of personal, confidential, and financial information such as passwords, program codes and algorithms, and proprietary processes and technologies. Data theft is considered serious security and privacy breach, with potentially adverse consequences for individuals and organizations.

What is data theft?

Data theft is the theft of digital information stored on computers, servers, and electronic devices to obtain confidential data or violate confidentiality. The stolen data may include bank account information, passwords for online services, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, medical records, online subscriptions, and more. Having gained access to personal or financial information, unauthorized users can delete and change it without the owner’s permission or even prevent access.

A common cause of data theft is the desire of attackers to sell this information or use it to steal other personal data. If enough information falls into the hands of attackers, they can gain access to secure accounts, use the victim’s credit cards, or use this data to their advantage. Previously, data theft was primarily a problem for companies and organizations, but unfortunately, it is becoming more serious for individuals.

Despite the word “theft” in the definition, data theft does not mean literally taking information from the victim – attackers copy or duplicate information for their use.

In the context of data theft, the terms “data leakage” and “data breach” can be used interchangeably. However, they differ:

A data breach occurs due to the accidental disclosure of sensitive data, either on the Internet or due to the loss of hard drives or devices. This allows cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data without any effort on their part.

On the other hand, data breaches occur due to deliberate cyberattacks.

How does data theft happen?

Data theft or digital theft can be carried out in various ways. Below are the most common ones.

Social engineering

The most common form of social engineering is phishing. Phishing occurs when attackers, posing as a trusted person or trusted source, trick a user into opening an email or text message. Users who are victims of phishing attacks are often subject to data theft.

Weak passwords

Using a password that is easy to guess, or using the same password for multiple accounts, can allow attackers to gain access to data. Also, data theft can be a “bad habit” when handling passwords, for example, writing down the password on paper or communicating it to other users.

Vulnerabilities in the system

Poorly designed software applications or poorly designed and implemented network systems create vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit to steal data. Outdated antivirus software can also be a source of vulnerabilities.

Personnel risks

Employees working in the company have access to the personal information of customers. Unscrupulous employees or disgruntled contractors can copy, change or steal this data. However, internal threats are not necessarily related to the actions of current employees. They can also be caused by the actions of former employees, contractors or partners who have access to company systems and confidential information. It is reported about the constant growth of personnel risks.

Errors caused by human error

Data leaks are not always the result of malicious acts; sometimes, they can occur due to human error. The most common mistakes are sending sensitive information to the wrong person, such as to the wrong email address, attaching the wrong document, or giving a physical file to someone who shouldn’t have access to the information. Also, human error can include misconfiguration, for example, if an employee has not set a security password for a database containing sensitive information.

Downloads from compromised sources

Users can download programs and data from hacked websites infected with viruses, worms or malware, thereby giving attackers unauthorized access to their devices and allowing them to steal data.

physical actions

Some cases of data theft do not occur as a result of cybercrime but are the result of physical actions. These include the theft of documents or devices: laptops, phones, and storage devices. The spread of remote work increases the likelihood of lost and stolen devices. If you work in a public place, such as a coffee shop, an attacker may be able to get your login information by watching your screen and keyboard. Another method of data theft – skimming – allows attackers to obtain information about payment cards by installing special devices in bank card readers and ATMs.

Database or server issues

Attackers can gain access to customers’ personal information if a company that stores personal data is attacked due to problems with the database or server.

Public information

A large amount of information is in the public domain; it can be found by searching the Internet or viewing user posts on social networks.

What types of data are stolen most often?

Any information held by individuals or companies can potentially target data thieves. For example:

  • Customer records.
  • Financial data such as credit and debit card information.
  • Source codes and algorithms.
  • Patented descriptions of processes and methods of work.
  • Network credentials such as usernames and passwords.
  • Personnel records and employee data.
  • Personal documents are stored on computers.
  • Consequences of data theft
  • The consequences of a data breach for organizations can be quite serious:
  • Possible lawsuits from clients whose information has been disclosed.
  • Ransomware demands ransomware launched by attackers.
  • Recovery costs, such as fixing or updating compromised systems.
  • Reputational damage and loss of customers.
  • Fines and penalties from regulatory authorities (depending on the industry).
  • Downtime for data recovery.

How to keep your data safe

So how do you protect data from cybercriminals? You can take the following steps to prevent data theft by attackers.

Use wifi jammer

wifi jammer

No matter what kind of hacking method the criminals use, all of them require internet access. The wifi jammer blocks the wifi signals so no one can hack into your computers. The wifi network disrupted by the wifi jammer will no longer be able to transmit data, which means all devices, including your own devices, can’t be connected to the router. That’s why some people only use this gadget when they are not at home or the office. Some security consultants will suggest that their clients use a wifi blocker during the private meeting to prevent tapping and monitoring. Wifi jammer can also block the camera from relying upon wifi signals to record and upload the contents to the criminals. If interested in wifi jammer, please check out our online shop.

Use strong passwords

Attackers can easily crack passwords, especially weak ones. A strong password consists of at least 12 characters: uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. The shorter and simpler the password, the easier it will be for cybercriminals to crack it. Avoid choosing obvious passwords, such as consecutive numbers (1234) and personal information that someone who knows you can guess, such as not using your date of birth or the name of a pet.

To complicate the password, you can use a passphrase. To form a passphrase, an easy-to-remember meaningful phrase is selected, and then a password is compiled from the first letters of each word of this phrase.

Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.

If the same password is used for multiple accounts, and attackers manage to crack it on one of the sites, they will gain access to all other accounts. Remember to change your passwords regularly, preferably about every six months.

Don’t write down passwords.

A password written anywhere—on paper, in an Excel spreadsheet, or in the Notes app on the phone—becomes vulnerable to attackers. If you have too many passwords to remember, consider using a password manager to keep track of all your passwords.

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication is a tool that provides Internet users with an extra layer of account security beyond the standard email/username/password combination. The most common is two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires two separate, distinct forms of identification to access anything. The first factor is a password, and the second is usually a code sent to a phone number or biometric data such as a fingerprint, face or retina. If possible, enable multi-factor authentication for your accounts.

Be careful when sharing personal information.

Try to limit access to your data on a need-to-know basis, both online and in real life. For example, if someone asks for your personal information—social security number, credit card number, passport number, date of birth, work experience, credit status, and other information—think about why they need this information and how they will use it. What security measures do they take to keep your personal information private?

Limit social media posts

Review each social network’s security settings and ensure they are set to the level you are comfortable with. Avoid revealing personal information, such as your address and date of birth, in your bio on a social network because attackers can use this data to form an impression about you.

Remove unused accounts

Most first subscribe to online services and then no longer use them. Services where these accounts still exist may contain your personal and identification data and credit card numbers – all this is valuable information for cybercriminals. Worse, if you use the same password for multiple accounts, which is highly discouraged, if the password is leaked on one of the sites, attackers can gain access to your accounts on other sites. To maintain privacy, it is recommended to remove personal data from unused services. To do this, you need to remove obsolete accounts; you should not just abandon them.

Destroy personal information

Shred emails containing personal information such as name, date of birth, or social security number. Please pay attention to the mailbox’s contents: it can warn you of undetected data leakage. For example, a sign of burglary might be receiving documents about visiting a doctor you did not visit. In this case, it’s time to take action.

Update systems and programs promptly.

Keep all operating systems and programs up to date regularly; as soon as they become available, install updates for security systems, web browsers, operating systems and programs.

Keep track of bank accounts.

Check your bank account, credit card statements, and other accounts regularly. This allows you to control whether any unauthorized payments or other anomalies have taken place. If the company you’re transacting with has experienced a data breach, you may not receive debit notifications, so it’s a good idea to stay vigilant.

Beware of Free wifi Networks.

Using free public wifi has become part of everyday life for many, but such hotspots do not always provide a secure and reliable connection. Public wifi hotspots can be easy targets for cybercriminals who use them to steal data. To stay safe when using public wifi networks, do not open or send sensitive data, turn off Bluetooth and file sharing, and use a VPN and a firewall. It would help if you also had a reliable antivirus. Review security guidelines for using public wifi networks.

Follow the news

Keep an eye on both general news and security news to be aware that the company you interact with is suffering a data breach.

One of the best ways to stay safe online is to use a reliable antivirus. Kaspersky Total Security keeps your devices and data safe 24/7 by detecting vulnerabilities and threats, blocking cyber threats before they spread, and isolating and remediating immediate dangers.

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