You might be surprised about how much personal data you really share/store on websites. There are the obvious ones, like your credit card information, PayPal, and bank information on e-tail sites. However, for the most part you trust that sites will keep your financial information safe. Some (a select few!) online consumers check the authenticity of a new to them site, while others blindly move forward. However, you might be giving these sites too much credit. The majority of data breaches could have easily been prevented by very basic, free, and simple safeguarding maneuvers.
Ideally, you don’t want cybercriminals getting any of your information at all. The ability to use personal data for identity theft, to steal money, or to ruin your reputation is getting easier. It’s astonishing how much a hacker can do with such little information. Taking the obvious financial (credit card, etc.) materials out of the equation, what else do you want secured from hackers?
Your full name, especially if it’s unique, shouldn’t be openly shared without your knowledge. Just take a look at what happened during the Ashley Madison hack! You also don’t want your address shared, especially if someone knowing where you live could cause trouble for you (scorned lovers, perhaps). Your email and phone number certainly shouldn’t be shared, lest you open up your life to non-stop spam. Many people use a junk email address, which is smart, but if you go that route make sure the junk email doesn’t have any genuine personal information attached (i.e. don’t fill out that Google+ profile for it!).
Your date of birth and social security number are precious—don’t share them online unless it’s with a site you trust. These two pieces of information can be combined with your name and other easy to get information to steal your identity. You also don’t want to share information that you commonly use for passwords, such as your mother’s maiden name. Think like a hacker to prevent becoming a victim.
You’re Not in this Alone
There’s only so much you can do before you start teetering on the edge of paranoia. You want to be able to use all the resources online without worrying yourself to death. Fortunately, some websites and web hosts have your back. For instance, if a website you enjoy relies on a host that offers virtual private server/VPS hosting or they’re big enough to afford a dedicated hosting package, your information is much safer than if they just use a basic shared plan.
Check to see if the website and web host have had any data breaches, and what those breaches entailed. Remember that thousands of hacks happen every year, so just because one happened doesn’t mean you should ditch that site or host for good. However, you should know what happened, how it happened, and what the site/host has done to prevent it from happening again. It’s a group effort, and if you get the right sites and hosts on your side, you’ll stack the odds in your favor.