Why is personal data so desirable?

With the recent news of Yahoo! suffering an attack in 2013 where over one billion accounts were compromised, the question that arises is: "Why do hackers want to steal people's personal information and what do they do with it?"

The information that people store in accounts such as Yahoo! will include full name, date of birth, address, security question and answers, credit/debit card details, passwords, etc. Once hackers have obtained this information, it is either sold on the Dark Web – an encrypted virtual network that requires specific software, configurations or authorisation to access – or posted online for other hackers/cybercriminals to use and abuse. 

The use of this information is often sporadic and targeted, which makes it difficult to spot.

  • Cybercriminals will withdraw real cash from your account, with the intention to purchase a digital cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, as this reduces the traceability of the original source (i.e. the theft). 
  • As we are creatures of habit, we often use the same password for multiple accounts – including for our online banking. These criminals will be able to determine from the credit/debit card number who the issuer is and they will try to gain access to your account to extract money. 
  • The other main use is to perform identity theft, where your acquired details are used to set up finance agreements, loans and other services, which can affect your credit rating. The sad thing is you will never know until you either check your credit scoring or you are being chased by a debt collection agency. 

As this is a global threat, we all need to play our part and be diligent in the way we 'give away' our personal information. Personally, I only give minimal information due to the fact I work under the assumption that the company or website I am using WILL be hacked. 

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