How to Protect Yourself from Data Breaches
This story was first published in 2011. It's worth re-reading in the wake of the massive password-data breaches this week at Target.
The two massive data thefts disclosed in April 2011 by Epsilon , which handles customer data for hundreds of large corporations, and Sony , which operates global gaming networks, involved the personal information of more than 100 million people.
That's more than 100 million people suddenly at greater risk of identity theft, suddenly more likely to become the targets of "spear phishing " emails that deceive by pretending to know you.
Yet those data breaches made headlines only because of their size. As security expert Bruce Schneier pointed out in an interview with the video-game blog Kotaku, network data breaches happen all the time, quietly affecting millions more people.
"No networks are really secure," Schneier said. "People have to come to grips with that."
To take a pessimistic but clear-headed view, companies and other organizations operating online can't be relied upon to guard your information. They may never be, no matter how often they ask for it.
Data breaches will happen. Your name, address and email address will probably get out there eventually, providing fodder for identity thieves and other online criminals.
Instead, you have to rely on yourself. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of data breaches is to minimize the amount of actual personal information you put online — sometimes by using the old-fashioned tactics of evasion, diversion and lying.
Here are a few tricks to help keep you as anonymous online as possible.