The marks we leave in the digital world create and add to our existing digital footprint every time we connect, post or share information via social media or other online platforms. In many instances, these acts may seem meaningless, with no immediate consequences or risks. However, online exposure should not be taken for granted, especially now, when most daily tasks require even more digital interactions.
Most netizens believe their identity consists solely of the information provided in the real world. However, the internet knows more than you might think, leaving users susceptible to identity-theft related crimes and impersonation attempts that can damage their online reputation.
An in-depth analysis of Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection community has revealed an alarming rate of personal data exposure of users over the past eight months. Only 19.48% of users have between one and five data entry points exposed online, including a home address, names, usernames, emails and job titles. 20.20% of users have between six and 12 data entry points made public. For the remaining 57.49%, more than 12 data entry points are exposed, with 16.13% of users having more than 50 instances of personal identifiable information on display in the virtual world.
The data repository amounts to a pool of 7100 users, 43.7% of which are from the United States, 15.9% from Canada, 12.3% from the UK, 9% from Australia, and 4.9% from Romania.
On average, a user’s digital footprint exposes 26 data items, with a record-breaking exposure count of 277 items for a single user, who also suffered the largest number of data breaches over the past 10 years.
Home address, URLs and job titles or workplaces are the top trends observed in online exposure of users’ personal information. According to our data, 29.35% of exposed data is linked to social media URLs, 19.42% represent home or physical addresses, and 19.92% point to job titles or user workplaces.
Additional data entry points include:
- 7.49% for names
- 7.32% for usernames
- 6.74% for gender
- 5.36% for education
- 2.75% for email addresses
- 2.48% for dates of birth
- 1.28% for phone numbers
Personal data exposure is not limited to what users willingly share in the virtual world. It also encompasses leaked personal identifiable information (PII) from data breaches that continue to fuel cybercrime and fraud in underground marketplaces.
Over a quarter (27.78%) of Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection users have suffered more than 12 data breaches, with one user facing a record-high of 87 data breaches in the past decade. Additionally, 36.60% have appeared in one to five data breaches, and only 35.61% of users remain in the six to 12 data breach exposure count.
Impersonation attempts are also on the list, with 3.99% of users confirming that real online impersonators leveraged their digital identity. While it may not be clear if these attempts exploit users’ online popularity for financial gain, there has been one instance of 15 online impersonations for one user.
The truth is that the safety of personal and financial information has become a “luxury” that nobody can genuinely afford. Throughout our digital endeavors, we willingly and unknowingly expose data that cybercriminals and scammers can use in nefarious ways. It has become imperative for users to understand their digital persona and the implications of oversharing information via social media or other online platforms. There may be no quick fix or antidote to provide bulletproof protection. However, the way users chose to limit their digital footprint in future online interactions can go a long way to protecting against identity-theft-related crimes and impersonation attempts.
Check now if your personal info has been stolen or made public on the internet, with Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection tool.