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Ashley Madison: Hacking and Personal Data Online

Following the revelations that the cheating website AshleyMadison.com has been hacked and millions of people’s personal data is about to be leaked, it got me thinking about just how much of our lives we put on the internet.

From a simple log in to an email account to full dating profiles, we put our entire lives on the internet without a second thought. There are numerous stories in the media of people posting incriminating pictures on Facebook only to see it backfire. But it’s not only the things we voluntarily share that we need to be careful of.

Internet shopping is becoming easier and more and more popular but it does mean that personal information about our finances is stored on, or shared with, websites. It’s important to make sure that any sites you use protect your personal data.

When looking at making an online transaction, you must treat it just the same as if someone was asking you for the data face-to-face. Ask yourself why the website is asking you for your details and what they will do with it afterwards. Check that the URL of the page you’re on starts with https:// - the “s” means that the page is more secure than pages without. This can protect you against hackers and stops the information on the page being intercepted. It’s so important to check this when entering any sensitive personal information online.

Also check the website’s privacy statement, which should tell you what it intends to do with the information you share. Sometimes there is really fine small print that says your details will be shared with third parties. This can often mean that you will be cold called or receive tonnes of spam emails.

How do I Protect my Identity Online?

Don’t give too much away. Be very careful when being asked to provide full details for anything, especially on an open forum. On social media, make sure your security settings are set so random people can’t access your profile. This can help prevent identity fraud.

When buying online, ensure that the page where you enter your payment details has a small picture of a padlock, often at the bottom of a page. This means that the site is secure and using encrypted data to protect your personal information.

Passwords should be complex and not obvious. Words are only good if they are combined with upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. One of the most secure symbols to use is £ as it is UK specific and any password that has it is harder to crack. Always use a different password for different sites. Even if it’s just a number or letter different, make sure each one is unique.

How do I Avoid Online Scams?

Most online scams are after your financial details. Criminals want easy access to your accounts or your details to commit identity fraud. Phishing is a scam that lures you under false pretences to legitimate-looking websites to get you to provide personal information. Often emails appear to be from known sources such as banks or online shops but the links within them are to fraudulent websites.

Always check emails carefully, especially if you’re being asked to click on a link to another website. Look at the email address that the email came from. A lot of fraudulent emails look genuine but there will be slight differences. For example, there could be extra letters in the email address, or the website link isn’t quite right. Often phishing emails are written with a sense of urgency, or with a message that might make you panic such as “your account has been breached. Click here to confirm you are the account holder.” The link will undoubtedly be to a fraudulent website, which will dupe you into entering your details. Once you enter your personal information, your identity has been stolen.

If in doubt:

• don’t open attachments,
• don’t click on links,
• be suspicious of anyone that asks for your bank account or credit card details, or asks for your password.

Remember, your bank will NEVER ask for your PIN number either over the phone, online or via email or text message.

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud, report it immediately to your bank. They will investigate and they will report any criminal activity to the police.

Unfortunately, as is the case with the Ashley Madison website, hacks can be hard to prevent. Keep an eye out for our next blog for businesses and how to keep customer data safe.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK have an expert team of Data Protection Solicitors who can provide immediate legal representation for individuals or businesses. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9081 or contact us online and we will call you.

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