6 min read

How to Check if Your Personal Info is Exposed

How to Check if Your Personal Info is Exposed

You may not see it, but it's there: your digital identity has a full event history that is hidden from view because you don't have a way to track it. Or do you?

In this guide, Bitdefender cybersecurity experts teach you how to discover your digital footprint and how to successfully manage and monitor it.

How Your Online Activity Exposes Your Personal Information

Before we jump into methods to protect your private information, let’s see exactly what you should keep safe.

Four ways your online activity reveals your personal information

Online shopping exposes your:

Dating apps reveal your:

Search engines & browsers track your:

Social media harvest your:

Email address

Delivery address

Phone number

Credit card details

Product search history

Frequently bought items

Average shopping basket value

Most browsed products

Gender

Age

Ethnicity

Phone number

Private chats

Political views

Private pictures sent via DMs

Likes & swipes

IP address (which also reveals your physical location)

Online searches

Browsing history

IP address

Physical address

Passwords (if you store them in your browser, which we don’t recommend)

Device information

Downloaded files

Browser add-ons you use

Posts, photos & videos (including deleted ones)

Messages & files (sent & received)

Phone contacts

Email address

Home address

Phone number

Relationships

Groups or group chats

Posts, pics & videos you’re tagged in & more

Now imagine what happens when you put all these details together. The result is a very accurate picture of your digital persona that is sometimes even more precise than you would expect.

Once they have your online identity on file (now closely tied to your offline life), you may be exposed to cyber-attacks, social media impersonation or digital identity theft.

What Is the Most Frequently Exposed Type of Personal Information?

Cyber-criminals love information leaks. The bigger the volume and juicier the data revealed, the faster and more aggressively they can use it and monetize it.

Data breaches  frequently expose personal information such as:

  • credit card or bank details
  • Social Security numbers
  • driver’s license information
  • home addresses
  • phone numbers
  • email and password combinations
  • medical records
  • biometric data (fingerprints, full face photography)
  • behavioral data (preferences, online activity history) and much more.

In the last decade, many global organizations (including governments) experienced data breaches. This resulted in massive leaks of sensitive information about millions of individuals from all over the world.

Malicious actors are taking full advantage of the situation. They are actively:

  • collecting as much data as possible
  • corroborating it to build accurate profiles for potential victims (including the relationships between them)
  • leveraging this leaked data to launch further, more targeted attacks with higher chances of success.

While there is no perfect solution for this situation, there is something you can do to understand which of your personal information is out there and if a cyber-criminal is using it against you.

How to Check if Your Personal Data is Exposed

“So how do I check to see if my information was leaked online?”

Most advice out there will nudge you to start checking your main accounts one by one and see if your email info is leaked, for example. While that is a good way to start, you will probably need extra help in the task of securing your private information.

That is why we developed Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, a monitoring service with a real-time online dashboard (no download required), which can save you considerable time and effort.

Let’s take a look at what it does to keep you safe from online privacy threats such as identity theft and social media impersonators.

See Your Digital Footprint at a Glance

When you first log into Bitdefender Central, after activating your subscription for Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, the monitoring service will automatically start mapping your digital footprint.

You then get a few prompts to validate if certain usernames, email addresses, and other personally identifiable information is (or has been) yours. This Accuracy Check helps the service better understand your online profile.

Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection - Online Dashboard

You even get to see how your “digital dossier” evolved over the years. It can sometimes be a real eye-opener as to how much information you are leaving behind.

Check Your Data Breaches History

Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection only needs your email address and phone number to crawl data leaked from breaches to see if your information was exposed.

You get a full list of organizations that revealed your details and what kind of information about you was disclosed. Plus, you get a bunch of action tips for each data breach so you can start closing those gaps in your online security.

This is just the beginning because, every time your personal information ends up in a data breach, Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection updates the chart and notifies you to act and minimize the impact.

The larger your digital footprint is, the higher the chances you are more exposed on the web, giving cyber-criminals and scammers plenty of opportunities to sneak into your devices and software and use them to defraud you or leverage your good reputation for their gain.

How to Check if Your Email was Leaked

When you start using Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, you get ongoing breach monitoring for five different email addresses. The best part is that it happens automatically: all you have to do is fill in the details and it takes care of the rest.

As it crawls the visible and inaccessible parts of the Internet (even the Dark Web), Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection may come across older email addresses you used at some point, which can still expose your personal information.

How to Check if Your Password was Leaked

When Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection scours the Internet for bits and pieces of information and tracks them back to your identity, it also checks for leaked passwords.

Your online dashboard also includes the recommended steps to take for each of your accounts involved in a data breach. Most often it will advise you to change your password and turn on two-factor authentication if that is an option.

How to Check if Your Account Information Was Leaked

Besides usernames and passwords, your online accounts pack a lot more info than you may realize. Service providers often ask for your physical address, credit card details and personal preferences to deliver your order. Data breaches spill this information into places malicious hackers can access, such as public repositories or Dark Web forums.

Each warning from Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection includes the type of information that was exposed because of a data breach.

Moreover, you may be surprised to find out that your private information was leaked through companies you have never used or even heard of. These data enrichment companies often operate in grey areas when it comes to ethics, pulling together facts about individuals and selling these enhanced profiles to the highest bidder.

How to Find Out if Your Email Is on the Dark Web

Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection scans millions of websites and monitors the underground economy to check if your information was leaked on the Dark Web.

Now you may be wondering: “can I remove my email from the Dark Web?”.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Once it is online, permanently deleting data is a difficult task. But there is still a lot you can do to protect your online privacy.

How to Check if Someone is Impersonating You on Social Media

Sure, you could run periodical online searches on the main social media platforms and do the same using search engines. But this is a lot easier with the Impersonation Check from Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection.

Once it identifies profiles that seem to be using your personal information, you can take action. After you validate the accounts you own, Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection constantly sweeps social media platforms for potential impersonation attempts.

This helps you act fast and limit the potential damage that can span from a mild scam to tarnishing your reputation to the long-term damage of digital identity theft.

What to Do if Your Personal Information Is Compromised

First, follow the recommended steps that Bitdefender Digital Identity Protectionprovides. This often includes changing your passwords and turning on two-factor authentication.

There are also other steps you can take:

  • Watch out for phishing and scams such as fake antivirus messages, deceptive package delivery messages, phony calls from tech support you never contacted
  • Monitor your credit card or bank account statements for expenses you’ve never made
  • Check for suspicious logins into your accounts and activate notifications for them if the service you use provides them
  • Be on the lookout for misleading password retrieval emails and messages and only change your credentials by logging into the account from the official website
  • Check for signs of identity theft such as IRS notifications about more than one tax return filed in your name or collection agents contacting you to settle debt you have never taken on.

A cautious attitude goes a long way when it comes to your online privacy and security. You will soon be glad you are doing this every day, bit by bit.

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