As a huge fan of TV series Person of Interest, I couldn't help but start off this blog post with a variation of the voiceover introduction to each episode: "You are being hacked. Cybercriminals have a secret system: a network of data thieves that search for your information every hour of every day."
Such were the findings of Bitglass, a data protection and internet, mobile and cloud security broker.
To track how stolen consumer data is used, the firm created a file of fake credit card information and released it on upload sites and the so-called 'darknet', seen by many as the playground for cybercriminals.
Bitglass watermarked the dummy document, so they received an alert each time it was opened or downloaded. The results over a fortnight were staggering: the file was opened nearly 1,100 times in 22 countries spanning the globe. Of course, due to the standard practice of darknet users masking their IP addresses, there was no way to find out how many times the document was actually read or by how many people.
There was evidence that attempts were made to use the made up credit card details, with the main concentration of people accessing the fake files located in Russia and Nigeria.
The potential impact on reputation is obvious: from fake identities created in your name, unauthorized purchases being made and, perhaps worst of all, crimes being committed in your name.
As is increasingly being acknowledged - especially by data security experts - there's no way to stop security breaches. There are too many 'moving parts' - from disgruntled employees to lax systems - so it's imperative to exercise a forensic approach to how your information is being stored, used....and potentially misused both on and offline.
To quote another of my favourite TV shows, Hill Street Blues: "Let's be careful out there."
Thoughts on customer service, communication and, of course, reputation management.