Hacking: A look at online safety

In a world where everything revolves around the Internet, people are more comfortable than ever giving up their personal information online. Whether it’s posting on social media, or giving out your credit card number, you should always be aware of the possibilities.

Recently, Ashley Madison, an online website promoting adultery, was hacked on July 20. The website has over 37 million users, all of whom were threatened by hackers called “Team Impact” to have their private profiles with information such as secret sexual fantasies, names, addresses and credit card transactions exposed, according to CNN.

However, the website did offer a full-delete service for an extra $19, even though it doesn’t necessarily work, according to The Guardian. Even more concerning is that when a journalist from The Guardian attempted to delete his research account, it took five calls to customer service and 15 pounds ($24) to delete the account.

No matter how stress-free or easy it may be to try and delete your information from the internet, it’s never truly gone.

Saying that, with credit and debit cards being a primary method of payment these days, students and other adults alike don’t always remember how our information is something that needs to be kept private and secure. Whether it’s buying a textbook or going on Ebay, we are allowing multiple vendors access to our information, which is more than enough to impersonate anyone.

Think about it: How easy and simple is it to click a button and hit send? I know I am guilty of it, just as we all are.

It’s about anonymity. We forget that we are giving out all of our personal details such as names, addresses, methods of contact, etc. while purchasing those to-die-for steal of a deal products. The association and assumption we make is that it’s technology and machines, not actual human beings.

But it’s not just small vendors or adult websites that can put you at risk. CVS Photos, which allows you to upload your photos online and pick them up in store, was hacked on July 17. Guess what? They are still trying to determine what information was compromised, leaving those who used the services extremely vulnerable, including college students who use services like these for convenience.

You might be a little panicked by all of this, but luckily there are steps you can take to maintain your privacy.

First, keep the number of “plastics” you own down to a minimum — the more credit or debit cards you have, the easier it is to lose track of what you’re spending and more likely that a hacker might slip unwanted charges into your accounts.

Next, try using companies such as PayPal or Venmo for online purchases and money transfers to cut out any risks. Both act as a middleman to distribute your payment without distributing your personal information.

But if for some reason your gut is telling you that you should be worried about your recent purchases, Credit Sesame states that you should take these five steps: Put a fraud alert on your Credit reports (through Experian, Equifax or TransUnion), contact your credit card company or bank, reach out to the Federal Trade Commission to get information about what to do next, file a police report, and by all means protect your social security.

All in all, we need to remember that online does not always mean anonymity. In light of the recent events with CVS Photos and Ashley Madison (among various other personal data breaches in the last couple of years), we should all remember to keep our information safer by not distributing it everywhere.