Identity theft is one of the most prevalent threats on the web today. The more time goes on and the more devices get interconnected, the more prevalent the issues derived from identity theft get – the issues related to identity theft can include, but not be limited to:
- Data breaches – they’re often the direct cause of identity theft across the globe. Data breaches swoop through our most critical infrastructure and as far as identity theft is concerned, attackers that gain access to our database usually reuse the data within it to mount attacks targeting other software systems.
- Phishing – once attackers gain access to our most critical data, they sometimes can turn to phishing campaigns targeting the people close to us, our employers, friends, and acquaintances. It’s not too unusual to hear about a phishing campaign being conducted shortly after a data breach had occurred.
- Stolen credit and debit cards – once attackers gain access to personal information, that access can spell bad news for our money as well; depending on what data the website stores, the information may include very sensitive information, and attackers are quick to use it to gain an upper hand. Such issues are usually quickly discovered and shut down by the banks, but some damage can be done nonetheless.
- Damaged credit and disqualification from loans – as identities are stolen, they can be used by the attacker to target our banks and credit institutions to put a strain on financial operations in the future.
We’ve outlined just a couple of problems related to identity theft – those who are more familiar with it know that it can also lead to our life savings being lost, debt being accrued, reputation destroyed, etc. – and those who’ve experienced it in the past surely don’t want to fall victim to such an attack ever again.
However, how identity theft is portrayed in movies and in reality are two completely different things – let’s dive in and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the similarities and differences of identity theft in the real world.
Identity Theft in Movies
Contrary to popular belief, identity theft is not always portrayed as a bad thing. In most of the cases, it’s portrayed as a thing to be learned from, though. In the 2013 movie “Identity Thief”, a couple of things tell us a lot about the potential risks of identity theft:
- An actor in the movie was driving a car when he got a call from his bank whose representative told him that he’s exceeded his credit limit. The man was surprised – he only used the credit card for coffee and gas..
- In a court setting, the man has been told that he’s missed his court date in a city a couple of days ago. A city he’s never been to – Florida.
- A car crash happens – a man and woman get out of the two cars that are involved in the crash. The man suggests the woman to swap information – it then appears that the woman has the same middle name as the man.
The movie is, of course, a comedy, but portrays some of the aspects of identity theft pretty well – in many cases, identity theft can amount not only to a declined credit card but also to other situations (missed court dates, exceeded credit card limits, etc.)
Identity Theft In Reality
However, in the real world things get a little more complex. Movies usually portray identity theft as either something that is very unnerving due to the emotional distress it causes to its victims (a declined credit card or an exceeded credit card limit is one of the examples), or something that needs immediate attention.
Both of these things are true, but when dealing with cyber crooks in the real world, we shouldn’t forget that not only can people exceed their credit card limits if their cards get stolen, but they can also fall victim to account takeovers, spam phone calls, fraudsters can sometimes commit crimes in our name (remember the “you’ve missed the court date” quote from the movie?), access our social media accounts and post nasty things to our timeline or message our friends asking for “loans” they’re not even planning to pay back, and even get involved in dumpster diving through our email accounts – as many of us rarely delete the emails we receive, access to a rarely used email address is a gold mine for an attacker. In that case, attackers usually search for even more personal information to mount attacks or email our colleagues, friends, or loved ones attempting to sway and persuade them to do something.
Not to mention that victims of identity theft usually go through a lot of emotional distress as a result as well. Even worse – if the goal of the criminal is to make money, our data could be sold off to other criminals for a fee and the cycle would repeat – add social engineering to the mix, and we could face even bigger problems.
However, these problems are really easy to prevent – in most cases, simply using two-factor authentication as part of our login mechanism or avoiding to reuse passwords by using a password manager is enough. Education plays a role too – we should educate ourselves about the threats posed by phishing, smear campaigns, social engineering, and we should be good to go!
These are, of course, only the basics – for those who are more into cyber security, data breach search engines like BreachDirectory will come into assistance. By searching themselves up on the data breach search engine provided by BreachDirectory people will have the ability to quickly assess their risk of falling victim to identity theft: after an username, email address, an IP address, or the domain of a website has been provided, the data breach search engine will be able to tell whether it’s found in a specific data breach or not.
For those who need additional protection, BreachDirectory also offers an API solution – the BreachDirectory API will help those who need to implement the functionality of BreachDirectory into the infrastructure of their company or organization and check people for the threats posed to their data after a login or registration process has been completed or is taking place. We hope that this blog has been informational, come back to our blog later on to learn more about threats in cyberspace, and until next time!