A: I can’t speak to your particular issue as I don’t have the specifics, but let me address this more generally.

When you leave your home for vacation and lock the front door, is your home now “secure”? Not if you left the back door unlocked.

When you leave your home for vacation and lock all doors and windows, is your home now “secure”? Not if someone can toss a rock through a window for access.

When you leave your home for vacation, lock all doors and windows, set the alarm, activate the security cameras, notify the police, stop mail delivery, and everything else we have been told to do, is your home now “secure”? Well, a rock through a window, ski masks on the criminals, and smash-and-grab burglary say “no”.

Does this mean it is useless to lock all doors and windows, set up security alarms and security cams? Not at all. Each of us can only do the best that we can to help stave off an attack, making us look like a poor choice as a target.

But back to internet privacy.

All it takes is one small leak for some level of privacy to be lost. A Facebook post showing that you are on vacation will let criminals know your home is not occupied. That MySpace post from 15 years ago where you posted video from a wild party may well be found by the HR department of the company you are trying to get a job. The letter to the editor of your local newspaper  where you made negative comments about <some-type-of> people. Yup. You can bet that will come back to haunt you.

So very much of what we do is part of the public record. For under $100 one can purchase a full search of the public record to know most of what there is to know about you. This used to cost thousands of dollars and a private detective.

Then we have the daily breaches of major websites. Check out https://haveibeenpwned.com. This provides a listing of the largest and most recent site breaches. In the example below (from November 17, 2021), I can see that IDC Games was recently breached, releasing almost 4 million user records. If you are included in this database, your info with IDC Games is now in someones hands. if they placed it on the dark web, it may be available to anyone with a few dollars to spare.

What To Do

  • Get a copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies in your country. In the US, there are three. If you find any inaccuracy, work with the agencies to remove the information.
  • Check the security and privacy settings of all your social media accounts. Most importantly, verify that ONLY your friends have access to your information, and go through your friend list, kicking out anyone who is not a “real” friend. Go through all of your postings. If any posts show you at less than your best self, delete them.
  • Keep your computer, tablet, and phone systems up to date. Out of date systems are far more vulnerable.
  • Install a quality anti-malware utility. I always recommend Bitdefender.
  • Use VPN at all times to encrypt your data coming and going to the Internet. I’m fond of NordVPN.
  • Be mindful of phishing attacks. These are usually emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, but are actually not, asking for personal information.
  • NEVER post anything on the Internet you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the news. Because at some point in time, it MAY end up on someone’s front page.

Care to go deeper, with step-by-step DIY guidance just like the cybersecurity professionals use? Visit https://thepracticalparanoid.com.