What Setbacks Can Your Online Vulnerabilities Cause You?

September 13, 2023 | by Rachel Kronenfeld

This is Part 1 of a 4-part mini-blog series.

Have you ever Googled yourself? What information came up on the first page? Your home address? Cell phone number? E-mail address? Maiden name? A picture of you?

These are all examples of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), readily available online with just a quick, simple internet search. There are numerous listings online, particularly in the United States, which include an individual’s PII such as websites like Whitepages.com and Beenverified.com. However, more complex searches can yield information to even more sensitive PII, such as your social security number, bank account number, credit card number, or even your car’s VIN number. There are likely hundreds more listings which most of the general public can’t see but can be found by sophisticated internet users such as mass data breaches and information compromises.

So much of our lives is conducted online that we don’t realize how vulnerable we actually are or how readily available our PII is. Other online vulnerabilities occur from you, your family and friends, or your company sharing information about you online. These vulnerabilities include exposure of relationships and associations, as well as behavior and travel patterns on social media and other websites. Social media leaves you prone to other online vulnerabilities. What are meant to be innocent posts about where you were, when, and with whom can turn into potentially damaging exposures for bad actors with malicious intent to easily draw connections to your valuable PII.

So much of our personal information lives out there in the digital ecosphere, the extent by which is almost incomprehensible. All these data points, which are seemingly innocuous on their own, leave you susceptible to attacks on your identity, life, or reputation.

Setbacks

The following scenarios are meant to inform you how all these PII data points, which are seemingly innocuous on their own, leave you susceptible to attacks on your identity, life, or reputation:

  • That casual internet searcher Googling your home address can use it in the following ways:
    • Doxxing – Malicious sharing of someone’s PII. Cannot be removed once out there on alternative social media, forums, and the dark web, all of which are largely unregulated
    • Physically showing up at your home – Physically or emotionally harming you and your family
  • If a sophisticated cybercriminal uncovers your home address and date of birth from a quick search through the hundreds of online data brokers, in addition to accessing your compromised emails and passwords from a data breech, they can use it in the following ways:
    • Identity theft – Months, if not years, of effort to recover your identity. Lots of hard work you must do on your own; no white glove service to take care of it for you.
    • Phishing scams – Financial losses, loss of sensitive company assets
    • Online scams – Financial losses and also more identity theft; the overall impact goes far beyond the annoyance of changing your password
  • The more someone knows about you, the more they can use this information to attempt to manipulate you. More knowledge equates to more opportunities to exploit you:
    • Blackmail – Accuse you of something and convince you to admit or do something that can cause damage to your business, your name, your family, your assets

Solution

Hg’s Digital Vulnerability Intelligence finds an individual and their family’s exposed PII, personal relationships and associations, locations, login credentials, and other personal information exposed online. Hg Analysts expertly remove as much as possible, including but not limited to hundreds of data brokers, white page directories, social media platforms, and other online databases. In addition, Hg Analysts help you employ privacy settings and best practices to remain risk aware and increase privacy in the future.

Hg’s services have been trusted by Fortune 500 executives, high-profile families, military, and law enforcement since 1996. Hg’s Subject Matter Experts (SME) have provided training and consulting on digital vulnerability for various organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about our digital vulnerability intelligence services, please contact [email protected]