Is it even possible to keep your digital identity safe?

For a while now, we’ve talked about how data breaches are the new normal, and how we’re increasingly living in a world in which personal information is no longer personal. Well, there have been a gaggle of reports recently that reinforce just how tenuous online security actually is.


For example, more than 500 million digital identities were exposed or stolen last year, according to a new report by Symantec. And they think that’s a conservative estimate (given that so many companies are leery of revealing the true scope of breaches they suffer).

What types of attacks are we looking at? Crypto-based ransomware is in the news a lot lately, and it’s also on the rise, seeing a 35% increase in 2015. Spear-phishing, a type of phishing attack that targets a specific organization, is up 55%. And beware of calls and emails from folks claiming to be “tech support” – those scams are up 200%.

Google warns about malware

More than 10 million people interact with unsafe websites every single week, according to a new report from Google. The research – conducted by the search giant in partnership with UC Berkeley – reveals that between July 2014 and June 2015, cybercriminals hijacked web servers 760,935 times.

Visitors who try to access those sites via Google Search will see a message warning them the site may not be safe, but those that do visit may be exposed to scams and malware via drive-by downloads. It ain’t pretty.

Guess what? Your phone’s not safe either

First, the bad news: you may have already heard that on a recent episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes, a security expert showed how a US congressman’s phone could be hacked – quite easily – based just on knowing his phone number. By gaining access to Signaling System 7, a global network used by all phone carriers worldwide, Karsten Nohl was able to listen in on U.S. Representative Ted Lieu’s phone calls, read his texts, and track his movements.

The even worse news: there’s not really anything that you or I or any other phone-using person can do to protect ourselves against this sort of attack. According to the report, Signaling System 7 has security flaws that aren’t easily fixed – and it could be years before a replacement system is in place. And, since the attack happens on the network side, you can’t just set up a pin number on your phone or be smart about which apps you install to avoid being a victim.

The not-quite-as-bad-news (for regular folks): Hackers probably aren’t as interested in targeting ordinary people as they are in exploiting the rich, famous, and powerful. We’re small potatoes. So…Happy Friday!

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data breaches

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