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What are the current risks to your data privacy and how can a data breach impact you?

There is a very real risk that more personal information is available out there, about you, than you realise. This can include things like your full name, your NRIC / passport number, your residential address, your mobile number, your email address, details about your employment, and more.


Easy access to such information by unauthorised persons puts you at risk, all the time.


Introduction

In today's digital age, the amount of personal information that we share online is vast and constantly increasing. The widespread use of the internet and social media has made us more connected than ever, but at the same time, has also exposed us to several data privacy risks.

While you may understand that you may be sharing personal information with strangers, for example, where your social media profiles are set to “public”, you may not realise the potential risks and implications of doing so.

High levels of exposed information can lead to severe consequences such as stalking, identity theft, intrusion online and offline and more. Consumers are understandably afraid of identity theft and credit card fraud, as these are the most common hacks that consumers may experience when they share information online.

There are, however, more specific current risks faced if you are not be aware of the need for the protection of your personal data, including:

1. Cyberattacks

A cyberattack is an unauthorised and malicious attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, or digital devices with the intention of gaining unauthorised access, causing damage, or stealing sensitive information.

They can use this data for identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious purposes.

According to the Malay Mail article, ‘Malaysia experienced 57.8 million virus cyberattacks in Q1, says US cybersecurity firm Fortinet’ published on 7 June 2022, “Malaysia recorded a total of 57.8 million virus attacks during the first quarter of 2022 (Q1 2022) which accounted for 1.14 per cent of the total cyberattacks around the globe, according to Fortinet”.

Some common types of cyberattacks include:

  • Malware: Malicious software, or commonly known as malware, are software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system. Examples include viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. These malicious programmes can disrupt system operations, steal data, or grant unauthorised control of the device or system to the attacker.

  • Phishing: Phishing is a social engineering technique where attackers masquerade as trustworthy entities, such as banks or email providers, and trick individuals into revealing sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, or personal details. This is commonly done through deceptive emails, fake websites, or phone calls.

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): In a DDoS attack, multiple compromised computers are used to flood a target system or network with a massive amount of traffic, overwhelming its resources and causing a disruption in services. The objective is to render the target inaccessible to legitimate users.

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attack: In an MitM attack, an attacker intercepts and relays communication between two parties without their knowledge. By inserting themselves into the communication flow, the attacker can eavesdrop, manipulate data, or steal sensitive information.

  • SQL Injection: This technique is used to exploit vulnerabilities in a website or application that interacts with a database. Attackers inject malicious SQL code into user input fields, tricking the system into executing unintended database commands. This can lead to unauthorised data access or manipulation.

2. Data breaches

Organisations that store large amounts of personal data are at risk of data breaches. These breaches can occur due to human error, system vulnerabilities, or malicious attacks, resulting in the loss or theft of sensitive personal data.

3. Insider threats

Employees or contractors with access to personal data can misuse this data for personal gain or malicious purposes. This can include stealing data, selling it on the black market, or using it to commit fraud.

4. Third-party risks

Many organisations rely on third-party vendors to process personal data, increasing the risk of data breaches and other security incidents. These vendors may not have the same level of security measures in place as the organisation itself.

5. Social engineering

Cybercriminals use social engineering tactics to trick individuals into providing personal data or login credentials. This can include phishing emails, phone calls, or texts that appear to be from legitimate sources.

Impact on Women and Children

There are some fundamental ways in which women and children may be affected because of personal data breaches:

  • Online harassment and stalking

Women and children may be more vulnerable to online harassment, stalking, and cyberbullying when their personal data is breached. Personal information, such as home addresses or contact details, can be used by malicious individuals to target, and intimidate the affected women or children. This can lead to emotional and psychological distress, loss of privacy, and even physical danger or harm.

  • Exploitation and trafficking

Breached personal data can be used by perpetrators for human trafficking and exploitation purposes. For example, sensitive data like home addresses, photographs, or personal histories, and even an individual’s location history on social media can be used to locate and target vulnerable individuals, particularly women and children, into forced labour, sexual exploitation, or other forms of abuse.

  • Online grooming and child exploitation

Children are particularly susceptible to online grooming by predators who exploit their breached personal data to build trust and manipulate these children into engaging in inappropriate activities or sharing explicit content. Breached data can expose children to higher risks of sexual exploitation, online abuse, or involvement in criminal activities.

  • Privacy and safety concerns

The breach of personal data can compromise the privacy and safety of women and children. This can include unauthorised access to sensitive health information, financial data, or private communications, leading to potential blackmail, identity theft, or financial exploitation. It may also expose victims of domestic violence or abuse to further risks if their location or contact information is disclosed.

  • Discrimination and social consequences

Breached personal data can perpetuate discrimination and harm by exposing sensitive information, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Women and children from marginalised communities may face additional risks, including potential harassment, discrimination, or exclusion based on their personal characteristics or identities.

Conclusion

To mitigate the impact of personal data breaches on everyone, and more specifically women and children, it is crucial to implement robust data protection measures, enhance online safety education, and ensure strong legal frameworks to hold perpetrators accountable. Efforts should also focus on promoting digital literacy, empower individuals to protect their privacy, and provide support systems to address the unique challenges women and children face in the digital realm.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is for general information and educational purposes only and is not intended to be and will not constitute any legal or professional advice to any person / public or private entity.

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