Hacking is a lucrative business, recent projections suggest that the cybercriminal industry generated $1.5 trillion in revenue in 2018. Data breaches and phishing scams contribute to the loss of millions of data records every day. In this industry, hackers are looking for valuable data including: health records, passport information, gaming credentials, email addresses, passwords, and credit card information.
1: Health Records
- HOW they are stolen: Health records may be exposed in data breaches, phishing attacks, or insurance scams.
- WHY they are stolen: Once a hacker or thief acquires this information, they can make fraudulent purchases and sell drugs or equipment on the dark web for a profit.
- VALUE of this information: Records can sell for anywhere between $100 to $500 depending on the kind of information they include.
Check your medical statements regularly, keep insurance cards in a safe location, and learn how your information is shared on websites and health-related applications. The information you share on these sites is not protected by HIPAA laws.
2: Passport Information
- HOW they are stolen: Hackers can scour databases that have previously scanned your passport information and acquire those scans to sell for profit.
- WHY they are stolen: Hackers can alter stolen passport information to completely disguise themselves with the stolen identity as they travel across borders. They can also use the passport as identification to open bank accounts and other accounts of value.
- VALUE of this information: A digital scan of a U.S. passport typically sells for anywhere between $10 to $60, depending on how much information is provided. Physical copies can cost more than $1,200.
Avoid having your passport information compromised by making and stashing multiple copies in safe places, lock your passport away when it is not on your person, and know when and where you must present your passport.
3: Gaming Credentials
- HOW they are stolen: Gaming credentials are most often stolen through phishing attacks and other means of compromising the email account to which they’re linked.
- WHY they are stolen: Once a hacker gains control of your credentials, they can pawn off account or in-game collectibles to other players for real currency.
- VALUE of this information: Account logins are typically only sold for $5 each, but large bundles of information are sold for larger profit.
To protect these credentials, use secure passwords, avoid phishing scams, and be wary of online forums trying to gather your personal information.
4: Email Addresses
- HOW they are stolen: Your email can be hacked if you fall for a phishing scam, log in over an unsecure Wi-Fi network, have a weak and guessable password, or if you failed to log out of your account on a public computer.
- WHY they are stolen: Your email can contain valuable personal or work information, and it’s likely tied to several other accounts that can then be compromised.
- VALUE of this information: The average email account without a password holds little value on its own on the black market. They’re often sold in bulk with millions of other accounts for a higher price.
If you have control of a compromised account, change your password immediately. Remove malicious software from your devices with security programs to avoid future breaches.
- HOW they are stolen: Your password may be stolen as a result of phishing or spoofing scams, signing in over unsecure networks, or through brute force (guessing the password by testing possible combinations).
- WHY they are stolen: When combined with a username or email address, a fully accessible account can be extremely valuable.
- VALUE of this information: The average email account with a password sells for $10, but can range up to nearly $200.
You can identify potential phishing attempts by analyzing questionable emails. Check for spelling or grammatical mistakes, think twice about clicking links, and avoid downloading suspicious software. Avoid sharing sensitive information through email and consider encrypting shared information.
6: Credit Card Information
- HOW they are stolen: Card information can be stolen by skimmers, malware, and through access to your accounts.
- WHY they are stolen: Hackers typically bundle credit card information together and sell it for profit. Some may hold the card information and make purchases themselves.
- VALUE of this information: A single credit card number may sell for $5 or less, and bundles tend to sell for upward of $40.
Check your bank statements regularly to monitor for suspicious activity. If you notice a breach, contact your card issuer and cancel your card immediately. Use your statement to report any fraudulent purchases you did not authorize. Your card issuer will send you a new card with a new number.
The takeaway? Follow necessary precautions to prevent your information from falling into the wrong hands. By using multiple, carefully crafted passwords and being responsive when a company reports a breach, you can avoid having your information compromised.
Bottom line, hacking is a business and it happens all day, every day. Take care of your data before someone else does.