Have You Ever Wondered What Hackers Do with Your Stolen Data?
These days, everyone is aware of the risk of data theft. Whether it is your company’s business data or your personal information, cyber criminals leave no stone unturned to get their hands on any sensitive data they can find. However, what they do with your stolen data is not common knowledge. Before we tell you about what stolen data can be used for, let’s get some basic information on how hackers steal your data.
How is Data Stolen?
There are several methods and techniques used by hackers to steal your data. Some of the most common ones include:
Phishing is one of the most common and frequently used attack vectors witnessed these days. In these attacks, cyber criminals send emails by impersonating a legitimate sender to trick a user into revealing sensitive information like login credentials, personally identifiable information (PII) and credit card information. Smishing and Vishing are two other forms of phishing where the hackers use SMS and voice calls respectively for tricking the users.
Malware attacks are on the rise and have become quite popular as a technique to steal sensitive information. There are several types of malware that focus on stealing login credentials, browser autofill data, cryptocurrency wallets and credit card information. Malware usually spreads through malicious email attachments, pirated software and malvertising.
Hackers often exploit unsecured connections to steal your data. Unsecured connections are the major cause of man-in-the-middle attacks, where threat actors access your data by positioning themselves in the middle of your connection to an unencrypted public Wi-Fi. Attackers can also use rogue hotspots to spread malware or redirect you to a malicious website, leading to stolen data.
Improper password practices like using a weak password, sharing your password with others or using the same password across multiple platforms can lead to your data being stolen by hackers. Not following the best practices when it comes to your passwords can allow hackers to access your online account and obtain all kinds of sensitive information.
What Can Hackers Do with Stolen Data?
Now that we have discussed the common methods used by cyber criminals to steal your data, let’s talk about how hackers can benefit from the stolen data. There is a wide range of information that hackers can steal and misuse. What they do with the stolen data depends on the kind of data it is. So, here is how threat actors can monetize different types of data:
#1 Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
PII refers to the information that can be used to identify, contact or locate an individual. This information includes names, addresses, birth dates, email IDs and phone numbers. There have been numerous massive cyber attacks where the PII of thousands of people was stolen at once. In a recent attack on Facebook, data of more than 533 million Facebook users was stolen. There is a myriad of ways in which cyber criminals can use your stolen PII for their gain. It can be sold on the dark web, used to carry out fraud transactions or exploited for committing identity theft. According to an article by PCMag, an individual’s social security number, full name and birth date can sell for $60 to $80 on the black market.
#2 Financial Information
Consisting of credit card numbers, banking information, insurance information and billing accounts, financial information includes data involved in an individual’s financial activities and can be misused to process financial transactions or access accounts. A hacker can use the stolen financial information to pay bills, transfer money out of your account and perform fraudulent online transactions. They can even create counterfeit credit cards to use for their purposes. More often than not, hackers sell credit card information on the dark web in bulk. As per an article by Business Insider, the basic details for MasterCard, Visa, Discover or Amex cards can fetch from $5 in the US to $25-$30 in Europe.
#3 Healthcare Data
Healthcare information refers to the data used for an individual’s medical services such as hospital records and medical insurance information. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry has become the most targeted industry and has suffered several data breaches. Lots of healthcare data is being sold on the dark web. According to Experian, medical records can be sold for up to $1000 on the dark web.
#4 User Credentials
Online or digital credentials include usernames, email IDs, passwords and online shopping login credentials. Theft of user credentials can be very dangerous as it can completely expose your online accounts to attackers. Criminals can use your stolen credentials to take over your accounts. Account takeover can be especially costly if the hijacked account has your payment details. A compromised email account can also lead to fraud and identity theft. According to an article by CISO Mag, online banking credentials can fetch an average of $35 on the dark web.
How to Protect Your Data?
Since there is so much that can go wrong if your data falls into wrong hands, the importance of protecting your organization and employees against data theft is quite clear. So, here is what you can do to keep your data safe:
- Timely Updates and Patches: Make sure your software and systems stay up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. Your organization’s security framework has to be consistently maintained and developed to stay ahead of the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.
- Generate Backup: Create frequent backups of all your company data. Store these backups in a system isolated from your existing network. This can help you a great deal in case attackers hold your data for ransom or lock you out of your files.
- Conduct Periodic VAPT: Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) offers the best way to identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities in your organization’s IT infrastructure. Patching these vulnerabilities immediately can significantly help in mitigating the cyber risks plaguing your organization.
- Prevent Third-party Risks: Make it mandatory for all your third-party vendors to comply with all the privacy laws and security protocols put in place. Reduce and monitor the vendors’ access to sensitive information to mitigate the risk of a third-party data breach.
- Make Employees Cyber Aware: Generating cyber security awareness amongst employees can make them more vigilant and less likely to fall for phishing attempts. You can utilize cyber attack simulation tools like ThreatCop to make your employees aware of the prevalent cyber threats and train your staff in the basics of cyber security.
Your data is as valuable as money, make sure it doesn’t become a bounty for cyber criminals!
Leave a comment if you have more ways to avoid data theft.