Going ‘disposable’ could save hacking, ID theft nightmares

We will probably never be able to eradicate hackers and clandestine networks from our (digital) lives, writes Stone & Chalk's Simran Gambhir

Cyber security is back in the spotlight in the wake of ABC’s recent Four Corners program on the issue. The program’s viewers were treated to long established yet simple techniques hackers use to steal personal information and access internet banking accounts.

To the seasoned security or technology specialist, the methods used by hackers to steal a person’s user ID and password aren’t new.

As certain as death and taxes are to all of us, it is safe to say that we will probably never be able to eradicate hackers and clandestine networks from our (digital) lives.

Credit card theft is rampant with the internet a constant target. In Australia alone, more than half a dozen Romanians were arrested as part of a global gang which stole $30 million from 30,000 Australian credit card holders.

And according to PwC, Australians will spend $16 billion online in 2016.

Is there a way to avoid waking up one day and finding your credit card had been used to purchase $5000 worth of luxury goods?

How can we create as many personal defences as possible without spending a bank breaking budget on cyber security?

One starting point is adopting a ‘disposable’ identity for credit cards and email addresses.

Having a disposable credit card via a service like EntroPay is a starting point.

EntroPay offers a prepaid virtual Visa card to make purchases online. You can prepay with your credit or debit card, and your personal and financial details are not shared with merchants.

This keeps your information safe and protects your privacy when transacting online.

It also means that if hackers obtain your EntroPay virtual card number, they will only get access to the funds already in it, which will be a limited amount as you are likely to have half a dozen cards that you “use and discard” over time.

A big trend at the moment is “subscription models” for products ranging from the monthly delivery of nappies to subscribing to podcasts. Then there are the hopeful deceivers that offer you “free trials” but only if credit card details are provided!

These services operate on the belief that you will subscribe and forget you did as the amount is usually small (like $10 per month). Plus they make it very hard to unsubscribe.

In such cases, disposable cards are your friend. You can get a card with only $5 value so it will pass as a valid card (these services often conduct a test charge using small amounts like $0.01 to make sure it’s a real card with credit). You can rest assured that unless you top up the card, they will not be able to charge you.

Disposable email addresses is one way to ensure that stolen private data can be ring-fenced.

Did you know that you can have, for example, gina.daws+ebay@gmail.com to sign up for eBay’s services?

Read more: Menlo Security seeks to isolate web-borne threats

The beauty of this is you do not have to register a new "gina.daws+ebay@gmail.com" account. Simply add “+ebay” or any word after the plus sign and it will still get delivered to your original email address -- gina.daws@gmail.com.

In the event a third party gains access to eBay’s database and starts spamming you, you will know exactly where they obtained your email address from.

Another benefit of using such email addresses is you can easily setup a filter using with that email address to auto-delete unwanted messages from particular vendors or services. .

There is no silver bullet to identity theft and protecting one’s privacy and identity on the internet but we should utilise as many tools as possible to help stave off the constant threat of digital sharks circling a treasure trove of personal information on the free web.

Simran Gambhir is chief technology officer at Stone & Chalk and co-founder of mobile development firm Ganemo Group. Simran has more than 20 years’ experience in the IT and security sector including CTO positions at News and Flybuys. Connect with Simran on LinkedIn.

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