The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims wrote about the possibility of hackers breaching a major data broker. This event would be the data world’s equivalent of the maximum of maximums.

Who Cares?

Comments I’ve read asked why should people care about what you buy? Why is this data valuable to a criminal or anyone else unless it belongs to someone with great influence or money? Why does it matter if an average person has their data stolen?

We can begin with the great possibility that these data caches hold identifying information such as social security number, birthday and mother’s maiden name. Just that information is enough to jeopardize millions of peoples’ financial data – identity theft cost Americans $16 billion in 2014.

All the Things

Some will still shrug their shoulders, but the public at large has not yet grasped that these databases don’t just contain what we buy. They contain intimate things like sexual preferences, traumatic incidents like accidents or crimes, and mental health.  They also hold information generated by their cell phones: location, texts, contact lists, that threaten personal safety and security.

Mobile is the Weak Link

Increasingly, these data banks contain highly-detailed records of your physical location, texts, contacts, and search history extracted from your smart phone. With SpyAware, we are now able to see which apps are taking the most information or using your location. Many of them do, for their own use or to well, because a sale of data can add a significant bump to the bottom line.

Added Value

Data brokers’ records aren’t just disjointed bits of data stored in a spreadsheet. These companies have worked very hard to add their own value to this information for the benefit of advertisers, their customers. So, those spreadsheets contain correlations and inferences made by the companies that round out the picture into a complete individual dossier.

That’s hundreds of millions of individuals’ information. How could it all be used? We live in an age in which data is relatively easy to generate and taken action on. Identity theft can be automated by analyzing large volumes of data, including your search history, to find chinks in your security armor.

The original hackers likely won’t use the information themselves, they will sell it to large numbers of other hackers each of whom have more than enough ability to steal multiple individuals’ identities.

The Big One

Like the long-anticipated Big One, it’s only a matter of time before one of these silos is breached. On that day, if the information is widely published, I think that society will be changed forever. We will suddenly have a lot of information about everyone we meet, more than we wish we had. And we will be exposed, as never before.

If it is not published, some cyber criminals will suddenly become unbelievably wealthy, and many people’s lives will be thrown into complete chaos.

Find out what your phone is telling brokers about you. Download SpyAware.