Cloud-based services are becoming ever more popular and more pervasive, and today’s computer users seem to be getting comfortable using those services to store personal data. Be warned that even these services have come under attack from hackers, and yes, user information is usually the target. The fact is, many users don’t take sufficient steps to protect their personal information online, which puts them at risk of identity theft.
In the first quarter of 2012, nearly 12 million pieces of online identification and personal information were stolen by thieves. This represents a nearly threefold increase over the same time period in 2010. A staggering number for just three months, and forecasts are that the number will only increase in the years to come.
With the large amount of information being stolen, the question many are asking is why is this still increasing? While there are a number of factors at play, the biggest reason is that netizens are signing up for more online accounts. Take a moment to try and count the number of accounts you have online; the average number is 26. Now, think how many passwords you use for these online accounts. An overwhelming majority use five or fewer. If thieves get a hold of one password, chances are nearly 80% that they will be able to gain access to other accounts.
If you are one of the many users who use the same email for a number of different accounts, your chances of having vital private information stolen from an account breach are nearly 100%. If you’ve connected or stored copies of identification or credit cards using an account that gets hacked, there’s no stopping someone from stealing your identity.
A recent study conducted by Experian, a credit-checking company, found that 14% of identity theft victims experience refusal of loans and credit-cards, 9% have debt racked up in their name, 7% are refused phone contracts and 7% are chased by debt collectors. While potentially scary stuff, most theft can luckily be prevented. You should ensure that you use a strong, unique password for every online account and that no important information (e.g., credit card, Social Security, Passport, etc.) is stored online. There are many password generator programs available, and we also highly recommend using a password “vault” service like LastPass.