You wouldn’t imagine that a kid’s toy could result in the theft of your personal information. But this occurs frequently. What about the garbage can you have outside? Is it a gold mine for a burglar looking to steal someone’s identity at night? Identity theft can be caused by numerous commonplace items. People frequently ignore them in favour of their computers and cloud accounts. Strong passwords and antivirus software should both be installed on your computer. But you also need to be cautious of other routes that thieves and hackers can take to access your personal information.
Here are six common things that criminals can use to steal your information.
Old Smart Phones
People replace their smartphones about every two and a half years. That’s a lot of old phones laying around containing personal data. Just think of all the information our mobile phones hold. We have synced connections with cloud services. Phones also hold banking apps, business apps, and personal health apps. These are all nicely stored on one small device. As chip technology has advanced, smartphones have been able to hold more “stuff.” This means documents and spreadsheets can now be easily stored on them. Along with reams of photos and videos. A cybercriminal could easily strike data theft gold by finding an old smartphone. They often end up at charity shops or in the trash. Make sure that you properly clean any old phones by erasing all data. You should also dispose of them properly. You shouldn’t just throw electronics away like normal garbage.
Most printers are wireless these days. This means they are part of your home or work network. Printing from another room is convenient. But the fact that your printer connects to the internet can leave your data at risk. Printers can store sensitive documents, such as tax paperwork or contracts. Most people don’t think about printers when putting data security protections in place. This leaves them open to a hack. When this happens, a hacker can get data from the printer. They could also leverage it to breach other devices on the same network. Protect printers by ensuring you keep their firmware updated. Always install updates as soon as possible. You should also turn it off when you don’t need it. When it’s off it’s not accessible by a hacker.
Did you ever run across a USB stick laying around? Perhaps you thought you scored a free removable storage device. Or you are a good Samaritan and want to try to return it to the rightful owner. But first, you need to see what’s on it to find them. You should never plug a USB device of unknown origin into your computer. This is an old trick in the hacker’s book. They plant malware on these sticks and then leave them around as bait. As soon as you plug it into your device, it can infect it.
Old Hard Drives
When you are disposing of an old computer or old removable drive, make sure it’s clean. Just deleting your files isn’t enough. Computer hard drives can have other personal data stored in system and program files. Plus, if you’re still logged into a browser, a lot of your personal data could be at risk. Browsers store passwords, credit cards, visit history, and more. It’s best to get help from an IT professional to properly erase your computer drive. This will make it safe for disposal, donation, or reuse.
Identity theft criminals aren’t only online. They can also be trolling the neighborhood on trash day. Be careful what you throw out in your trash. It’s not unusual for garbage to enable identity theft. It can include pre-approved credit card offers that you considered “junk mail.” Your trash can also hold voided checks, old bank statements, and insurance paperwork. Any of these items could have the information thieves need to commit fraud or pose as you. A shredder can be your best friend in this case. You should shred any documents that contain personal information. Do this before you throw them out. This extra step could save you from a costly incident.
Children’s IoT Devices
Toys that hackers adore include Wi-Fi-connected Barbies, smart kid watches, and electronic bears. It was discovered that Hello Barbie by Mattel made it possible to steal personal data. Its microphone could be used by a hacker to spy on families. Children frequently ask for these futuristic toys. They may think they’re cool, but parents don’t think about the security of their child’s data. These are toys for kids, after all. But this frequently results in them being simpler to hack. Because they are less likely to be difficult to hack, cybercriminals focus their attention on these IoT toys. Any new internet-connected appliances you bring into your home should raise some red flags. Toys are part of that! Put in place all firmware updates. Additionally, research whether the toy has been involved in a data breach.
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Don’t let the thought of identity theft keep you up at night. Give us a call today and schedule a home IT security audit. You’ll be glad you did.
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