Leaky clouds bring storms.
Some days, the Internet seems hell-bent on taking the concept of privacy, shoving its face in the mud and giving it a crippling wedgie. Sony's just lost private data on 77 million people. A giant marketing firm may have lost your email to hackers. Skype and Apple have both been caught treating sensitive data like a used tissue.
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Just how in the hell are you supposed to keep your identity safe these ways? Is there a way to stop a determined cybercriminal from getting to your personal information?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: If you're reading this site, odds are pretty good you have a lot of data stored online. Your credit card, address, birthdate, secret passwords, browsing history, location info...all of it is stored somewhere. And none of it is impenetrably secure.
No matter how much money is spent on security, there will always be holes. There's no defence against creative nerds with a lot of time and zero scruples. When you use online services you trust your data to someone who cannot guarantee its safety. But there are things you can do to minimize your risk.
Password Security: Vary your passwords. This is hard, considering the sheer number of accounts the average Internet user has. You might consider creating "tiers" of passwords. One for low-importance things like Forum accounts and another for high-security stuff and a third for gaming.
For 'Lost Password' Help: Go with the security questions and not something like your birthdate when choosing password recovery options for your bank account or email. Unless one of those sites is hacked, you'll be relatively safe.
Monitor Your Stuff: Check your spending at least weekly, if not more often. Review all charges. If you purchase something from a new online retailer you aren't 100% sure of, check regularly for several days after the purchase. (Or don't make it at all).
When Giving Your Information to Someone New: Shopping with a new online merchant? Paying over the phone to a business you've never worked with before? Look them up online. If they've shysted someone else, odds are good you'll hear about it.
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None of this is Foolproof: Always keep in mind that 'secure' is a relative term. Remember the Golden Rule of the Digital Age: If you put it on the Internet, any sufficiently motivated person can find it.