Is Your Personal Information Secure?

28 November 2014

As individuals on social media find their personal information increasingly at risk, either from hackers or the social media platforms themselves, those not engaging would be forgiven for feeling a sense of confidence in their own privacy. However when it comes to protecting sensitive personal data it would be wrong to consider yourself less vulnerable simply because you don’t tweet or don’t have the latest apps on your smart phone.

Everybody regardless of demographic shares information whether intentionally or not. When you fill in the Electoral Roll, make a planning application or apply for a Directorship you share a significant amount of personal information; whether it’s your address, who you live with or detailed building plans. You happily share this knowledge because it is required of you, very often without consideration for how it is stored. What may be surprising is that much of it will be uploaded online and stored on publically accessible databases. Similarly, users include a significant amount of personal data on their social media profiles without securing their settings, meaning it’s free for any user to view. This includes information about themselves and also family members; so just because you don’t have a social media profile doesn’t mean that relatives are not tagging the location of your home, sharing personal photographs or commenting on your activity. This may be very innocent but there is no way of knowing how this information will be dissipated among their followers, or even who their followers are for that matter. Also consider the fact that as there is no expiration on this information, it may be saved to be recycled at an appropriate time in the future.

The worrying thing is that it doesn’t take high level security clearance to find and access this information; but simply the time and compulsion to do so. The use of open source intelligence (OSINT) can return a huge amount of personal data to a skilled user accessing the right sources. People are very often unaware of their own digital footprint or the potential reputational risks associated with it, until it’s too late. While much of the information may appear benign it could be of great interest to a third party looking to formulate a hostile campaign or even open up the door to further scrutiny of you or your family.

The trick is to get interested before someone else does. By pre-emptively ascertaining what is already available about you in the public domain you can better mitigate the threat of your data being used against you. If you only start acting once you are centre of attention it can appear as if you have something to hide. The solutions are often straight forward; enabling you to handle any concerns in the appropriate manner before it becomes front page news.

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About the Author

Matthew Newton

SCR Operations Manager

Matthew is an experienced intelligence professional who provides investigative research services to help clients identify and manage reputation and privacy risks.

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