Digital detox? That’s probably mission impossible. We rely too heavily on digital tools and the internet to make our lives easier. From smartphones to social media, we use a variety of gadgets, software, and apps daily without considering the potential security risks they pose.

But, as recent cybercrime statistics prove, these handy digital helpers can leave our personal information vulnerable to cybercriminals. Cybercrime is set to cost $10.5 trillion annually by 2025 – but some experts believe that new AI tools may push this number even higher.

Protect your personal information from cybercriminals with these helpful insights on everyday digital threats you may not have realised exist.

6 Everyday Threats We Don’t Think About

1.    Email Services

Before the advent of AI, most of us could spot email scams from afar. But with the help of malicious tools like FraudGPT and WormGPT, email phishing attacks have become far more underhanded and widespread.

Nowadays, it’s common to receive an email from a fake courier company, bank, or streaming company reminding you to update your account details, collect a parcel, or inform you that your ‘payment cannot be processed.’ When you click on the link, it takes you to a spoofed website where attackers can log your credentials and use them to steal your real account. It may look legitimate, but it might have been created to resemble the original one and steal your sensitive data.

The only way to spot this is to check the URL of the site you’re visiting for tiny typos in the URL: an ‘l’ instead of an ‘i’ or a zero instead of an ‘o’. But the human eye may still be fooled – using an antivirus or VPN with a link checker will stop you from blundering into disaster.

2.    Social Media Platforms

Attackers can distribute malware directly through links. When you click on a poisoned link, it can start a malicious software download. Malvertising, or malicious advertising, is another threat. These ‘bad ads’ on social media platforms can redirect users to scams or data-stealing websites.

But there’s yet another danger.

Social media is a prime source of people’s personal information. Much of it is visible to the larger public by default. It enables hackers to gather loads of juicy details to use in phishing or spear phishing campaigns. Keep this in mind when sharing private information on social media.

3.    Smartphone Apps

Beware of fake apps in the official app stores. These appear legitimate but contain malicious code that can steal your photos, emails, banking details, or even record video or speech without you knowing.

Please read the privacy policy and decline unnecessary app permissions. Almost all mobile phone apps collect data they don’t truly need. When apps are ‘free,’ app developers usually recoup the development cost by selling the data they collect via their apps to a global network of marketing firms and data brokers.

4.    Health and Fitness Apps

A globally available fitness app is not automatically regarded as a ‘health services provider’ under the Australian Privacy Act. If the owner is based in another country, Australian data protection laws might not be sufficient to protect much of the highly personal data they collect.

For example, your fitness and mental health journeys are not considered medical data in the US. A fitness app need not keep your eating, sleeping habits, or goal weight a secret. That data may get sold to a medical insurance company, which could load the scales against you when calculating co-payments or a medical aid premium.

And your journey to better mental health is probably also up for sale. Privacy researchers from Duke University have found data sets on sale that enable advertisers to pinpoint people who suffer from specific conditions. For example, some data sets contain information about users suffering from depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, and trauma.

5.    Streaming Platforms

Streaming platforms use a set of software and hardware data points, including device capabilities, operating systems, and IP addresses, to identify their users. That’s to prevent people from sharing logins. But that wealth of user identification data makes streaming platforms highly sought-after targets for hackers.

Streaming platforms retain sensitive information like credit card details and even your location, visible as your IP address location. If the platform gets hacked, your data, including payment details, can be laid bare. Always use a VPN on your router or a VPN for Firestick to hide your location while you watch your favourite shows.

6.    Network Threats

Remote workers face massive risks from attacks on their unsecured home networks or using free Wi-Fi in coffee shops or other public locations. Two common types of network attacks include Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) and Man-in-the-Browser (MitB) attacks.

MitM attacks are when an attacker intercepts the data flow between your device and the service you’re accessing. MitB attacks are similar to MitM attacks but are more sophisticated. That’s when an attacker infects your device with malware to modify your browser’s communication with the website you’re visiting.

Both attacks allow attackers to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials, without your knowledge. Use only secured Wi-Fi networks and install a VPN to encrypt all your internet traffic.

Practice Basic Cyber Hygiene At All Times

While digital tools have made our lives easier, they can pose serious risks to our personal information and privacy. What can individuals do to protect their personal data from cybercriminals?

One of the most essential personal cyber security measures is to use strong, unique passwords for each account and to change them regularly. Enabling two-factor authentication can make it harder to hack sensitive accounts. Limit the information you provide on social media or when you sign up for services, and only share sensitive data on secure websites or VPN-encrypted channels.

It’s obvious that completely detoxing from digital devices is impossible, but try to stay aware of the digital threat landscape and be vigilant while enjoying the benefits of everyday technology.

Image: Getty

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