Digital Identity Theft and its Impact

It has been a day or two that I suddenly woke up to the fact of theft of my digital identity. Identity theft disturbs our peace leaving us anxious. It is a serious breach of online privacy and safety. I also sadly discovered that digital IDs of some of my priest colleagues were also stolen. Although, for now it seems to have come under control, cyber security experts warn us that it can spiral out in unimaginable ways. The person who suffers an digital identity theft feels the pain of his or her contacts as being manipulated into thinking that he or she is making requests, unbecoming remarks, commit financial fraud etc. This is why managing and protecting of our digital presence and footprint is increasingly becoming a huge challenge. Malicious actors impersonate both individuals and corporates to carry out their vicious agenda.

The impersonators commit identity theft in many ways. One way is that they hack the existing digital ID and use its profile to mislead the contacts from the very platform that the victim operates . This was not the way my ID was stolen. The imposter in my case created a fake digital ID on the Instagram and imported my profile and contacts from the facebook and began to manipulate my contacts by making request for financial help on behalf of a friend whose identity was not revealed. This kind of manipulations does inflict grave damage on person’s honour and self-image . This damage is grievously commited when the imposter predenting as victim begins to abuse people with honour and self repect who may be present on the platform. Another abusive behaviour may consist in stalking the other person or his or her contacts falsely creating a sense that it is the victim that is doing the stalking.

The case that I underwent manifests our vulnarabilities even more. It shows none of us are fully safe. I was not on the Instagram. Even a person who is absent is not safe. A fake ID can be easily created and the absent person on the platform may not even know about it until he/she is alerted by his/her friends on the said platform. This means the person who thinks that one is safe because one is not on any of the social media platforms is mistaken. Perhaps, such a person may be more vulnerable in an era of trolls and fake IDs. But those of us who are on the platform walk blindly into the likely traps of vulnerabilities as we are to lazy or stay negligent about the security levels of our passwords. We may sometimes use easy to remember password or one password for all accounts. Besides, the easy way the platforms give us access to our passwords when we forget them is also not making things difficult for the imposters to unlock our accounts. Maybe our biometric encryption could be our best security lock option. Some even talk about a new digital onboarding technology to assist us to sail smoothly on the platforms of the social media.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao