#Dataleaks happens to be the largest known personal data breach to date in South Africa. Picture: Flickr.com

Industry expert offers pointers on how best to protect yourself from identity theft. 

Eighty-five percent of 10 billion banking interactions take place online, says FNB Consumer segment chief executive Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt.
If the data falls into the wrong hands, it could cause a cataclysmic shift and lead to economic meltdown.

It sounds like the premise for a movie on international espionage and data theft, but in recent weeks, a similar scenario played out.

Independent’s Business Report recently ran a story on the #Dataleaks saga where two developers ran an analysis of the data that made its way on to a public-facing server and discovered around 60million records.

Of those, 12.4 million are minors, which in theory means children and teenagers account for 29 percent of the data set. The data leak happens to be the largest known personal data breach in South Africa, putting people like you and me in danger of identity theft.

ESET South Africa territory account manager Keegan Ackerman shares tips on protecting your data.

Stop unknown downloads

“One of the ways data can become compromised is through ‘drive-by’ downloads from websites you are browsing,” says the privacy protection expert. “When you are browsing the internet, you need to be careful as a lot of websites, such as torrent downloaders and streaming sites, will download sniffers and keyloggers in the background.”

These are malware that secretly record your every keystroke, resulting in them stealing your personal information.

“This is why it is so important to have an anti-virus solution with a firewall to block the downloads.”

In September 2016, Yahoo was the victim of the biggest data breach in history. Picture: Flickr.com

Beware of hot spots

The lure of free, public wi-fi is sometimes too hard to ignore. But Ackerman warns that public hot spots are easily compromised, “and you don’t know who else is connected and watching”.

If you can’t avoid using them, then stay clear of doing sensitive things like online banking.

Turn your Bluetooth off

“Bluetooth should be turned off when not in use as people can use this to gain access to your device,” says Ackerman. And if you’re being hacked via Bluetooth, your device will give no warning or indication that someone has accessed your information.

Only use secure websites

“Always make sure when sharing sensitive information with a service online that the website has “https” in the beginning, meaning it is a secure website.”

Use authentication security

It’s a schlep when you forget your e-mail password and Google sends you authentication codes, but that level of security is of the utmost importance.

“Make sure you use reputable cloud services for storing data and always opt for the highest level of security in terms of authentication such as 2 factor authentication.”

There’s huge costs for using free hotspots. Picture: Flickr.com

Security is a necessity, not a desire

“Having the correct security solutions on devices that house personal info is no longer nice to have,” says Ackerman. “A good, strong anti-virus with firewall abilities and encryption solutions are becoming easy to use solutions, and will make sure that even if your devices are stolen, that they won’t get access to your data.”

* Visit ESET South Africa’s website for more info