We all know hackers are after personal data. Leaked data such as social security numbers and credit card details can lead to lucrative fraudulent activities. Criminals take any road they can to illegally uncover personal data, including everything from physical theft to sophisticated hacking techniques.
Yet sometimes it’s easier to steal when the systems and the individuals tasked with protecting personal data are not looking. This is where DDoS plays a role: DDoS can distract, confuse and obfuscate. Read on to see how DDoS can lead to compromised personal data and how victims can recover from a personal breach.
DDoS, smokescreens and the real target
Distributed denial-of-services attacks evolved into existence for a variety of reasons. In essence, a DDoS attack makes use of a large number of widely distributed network devices to overwhelm a network service or application with requests. The goal is to deny service to bona fide customers by making the service inaccessible. Hence distributed denial of service attacks.
The reasons for a DDoS attack can include political motivations where attackers try to make a point, or extortion where DDoS is used to bring an organization to its knees and only ceased when conditions are met, or money is paid. But a DDoS attack may not be all it seems to be.
In fact, a DDoS attack can simply be a smokescreen. Whenever a DDoS attack is launched companies often kick into action labor-intensive, distracting action plans that can blunt their responses to more direct hacking attacks. A business may think it is the victim of a DDoS attack while the real attack may have a different goal.
By using a DDoS attack as a smokescreen, hackers can ensure that their attempts to break into a system go unnoticed. This way criminals can steal private data, including private personal data, before they have a chance of getting caught and stopped.
What hackers can do with personal data
Why would hackers go to such lengths to acquire personal data? Why go to the trouble of launching a resource-intensive DDoS attack just to generate a smokescreen before a breach? For criminals there is a huge reward in acquiring personal data.
First, data stolen in bulk can be sold in bulk. Working credit card numbers can sell for $15 apiece, which is a lot if a single breach results in a net haul of 100,000 card numbers. Likewise, social security numbers and full address details can also be sold in bulk for a huge profit.
Personal data can also be used as a stepping stone. Say a criminal steals credentials from a website: these credentials can then in turn be used by automated botnets to break into more important accounts such as social media, email and even financial services.
In essence, hackers have carte blanche once they have your personal data. Whether it’s sold or immediately used for fraudulent purposes, you stand to lose when your personal data escapes into the wild. Of course, the cost for the businesses that is the source of the breach is exponentially higher as businesses need to notify and compensate affected customers.
How to recover from a personal data breach
Thankfully there are mitigating steps that you can take to protect your personal data even if there has been a breach that was missed because of a camouflaging DDoS attack. By taking timely action you can reduce the effects of a breach of your personal data.
Preventative measures should be your number one priority. First, don’t share your personal data with companies that do not apply strong security measures such as intelligent, high-capacity DDoS protection. Personal security best practices also help: for example, don’t use the same password for every online service. Complex passwords are a useful protective measure and you should regularly change your passwords to ensure any stolen credentials are quickly out of date.
Being aware that your personal data has been compromised is the next important step. This is why it’s important to monitor your bank statements and credit card statements on a frequent basis so that you can immediately notice when and if your personal data has been stolen. Another way to notice ID theft quickly is to watch your credit bureau profile, or to sign up to an alert service which notifies you of ID theft.
Knowing that your personal data has been breached can lead you to action: you can immediately move forward and notify your banks and credit card providers who will put the necessary measures in place. If your identity has been used to apply for loans and other financial products you will need to get in touch with the relevant providers and credit bureau to repair the damage to your credit profile. It is a difficult process that is time consuming, but ID theft is so common that financial institutions and credit bureau are typically all too willing to cooperate.
Stopping ID theft requires both organizational and personal efforts
Your personal behavior in the digital realm (choice of providers, password habits) have a big effect on the opportunity for hackers to steal your personal data, and how effectively they can commit crimes using your data. But even your best efforts will not thwart a determined attacker.
Businesses and organizations should do their part too, including hiring security vendors that can, for example, provide effective DDoS and hacking protection. Reducing the opportunity for data breaches means that the cost for both businesses and individuals will be far lower.