Your Personal Information: Protecting it from Exploitation

Your Personal Information: Protecting it From Exploitation

 

Protecting Your Personal Information from Exploitation
 
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Data breaches involving personal information result in a broad range of risks to individuals and organizations.  This includes identity theft, targeting of individuals with knowledge of sensitive government information and internal business processes, and other intelligence activities that use personal information of U.S. citizens to undermine national security.

It is in our collective interest that we take actions to limit the risk of our personal information being exploited, and that we are able to recognize any indicators that we may be the target of such activities.

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Confirmation that your personal information has been accessed in a data breach is not a guarantee that your information will be misused or that you will be targeted for further exploitation.  However, it is important to remain mindful of the risk of such misuse or exploitation. 

The following information is provided to raise your awareness to this possibility and to help you understand how your personal information may be used by foreign intelligence services, and other “bad actors” (extremists, criminals, hackers, and the like).

The information below is provided to raise awareness and provide guidance for mitigating risks; it is not intended to indicate that the government has observed particular adverse effects from data compromises.

 
 
 
 
 
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All individuals potentially affected by a breach should be wary of suspicious activities indicating their personal information has been or is being exploited, and follow these protective measures, including:

  • Do not provide additional or detailed information about yourself, your family or associates, or your position with any individual who has an unusual or heightened interest in you, or your family and associates;
  • Do not share personal, financial, or sensitive information if you are contacted by unknown individuals or groups via e-mail, instant messaging or text, telephone, social media interaction, and personal encounters;
  • Do not open attachments or click on links embedded in emails, instant messages or texts from unknown senders, senders who would be unlikely to send an email directly to you, and even from known senders with grammatical errors, misspellings, or if there is no text with the attachment or link;
  • Install and maintain up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software to guard against viruses, other malicious code, and pop-ups that can appear if your computer is infected;
  • Transmit electronic information safely using encryption and by using secure, known websites (e.g., with addresses starting with “https” rather than “http”);
  • Share electronic files and photographs only with those you know as they contain embedded metadata such as identity, date and time, and location information;
  • Select the highest level of privacy settings on your electronic devices and applications;
  • Monitor your credit history and activity through a reputable credit bureau and your account statements for any unauthorized or unusual entries. Free credit reports can be obtained at: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports;
  • Maintain direct positive control of, or leave at home, electronic devices during travel, especially when traveling out of the U.S.;
  • Know the locations and contact information for U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic establishments for any issues or emergencies when traveling out of the country. This information can be found at: http://www.state.gov/misc/list/index.htm;
  • Report per your department, agency, or company instructions, all suspicious activity, events, or individuals you, relatives, and associates encounter; and
  • Share these general awareness and protection guidelines with relatives and associates as appropriate. Avoid misconduct or behaviors that leave you vulnerable to blackmail, coercion, or recruitment.

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National Counterintelligence and Security Center