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  • A new Apple privacy update, iOS 14.5, lets consumers stop Apple apps from tracking them.
  • Unless someone gives permission to an app, it cannot use their data for targeted ads, share their location data with advertisers, or share their advertising identity or any other identifiers with third parties.
  • If you do not want to be tracked by your Apple device, download Apple’s latest update (14.5), and select Settings > Privacy > Tracking, and toggle off Allow Apps to Request to Track. You can also decide on an app-by-app basis by selecting “Ask App Not to Track” or “Allow” once you download a new app.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

He Loves Me Not

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for April 30, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we’re going to focus on the seismic event in the data privacy world.

In Henry IV, Shakespeare’s play about taking action while others fail to act, Lady Percy says, “Some heavy business hath my lord in hand, And I must know it, else he loves me not.”

In this case, she’s referring to plans for a rebellion. However, in the context of this week’s episode, we’re talking about the new Apple privacy update, which gives consumers more control over their data as a substitute for privacy legislation. Later in the article, we will tell people how to take advantage of a new feature from the makers of the iPhone and iPad.

New Apple Privacy Update Feature

In an earlier episode, we talked about Apple’s controversial decision to add a built-in privacy feature that would block the ability of applications to track users. That data is used to serve ads to people either by the app owner, or if it’s sold to a third party that uses the information to target people with ads as they travel around the digital world.

Consumers Can Opt-Out of Being Tracked By their Apple Apps

Apple announced the new App Tracking Transparency feature in June 2020 to give app developers plenty of time to prepare for the change. And a big change it is. Unless someone gives permission to an app – including those made by Apple – it can’t use one’s data for targeted ads, share their location data with advertisers, or share their advertising identity or any other identifiers with third parties.

Many Privacy Experts & Consumer Advocates Favor the Change

Privacy experts and consumer advocates think the new Apple privacy update is a great step forward in giving people more direct control over their data, who has access to it, and how it is used. Advocates have long sought a shift in the U.S. to a more European privacy model where consumers must give their permission before personal information is collected and used.

From the beginning of the digital economy, the U.S. has built business models on a no-option basis. That means people have no choice but to surrender their personal information, which then becomes the property of the business, not them.

Thanks to a strong European privacy law that went into effect in 2018 – and several state laws and regulations in California, New York and Virginia – we are beginning to see the ability of consumers to “opt-out” of certain types of data collection and sales. That is to say consumers can tell a company to stop collecting, selling or sharing their information.

However, that approach is not universal since the U.S. has no national privacy law, and 48 of the 50 states have not passed specific data privacy laws. Enter the Apple privacy update that allows customers to block data collection.

What You Should Do If You Don’t Want to Be Tracked by Your Apple Device

If you don’t want to be tracked by your Apple devices, here’s what do you need to do:

  • Download and install the new iOS version 14.5 on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Once you do that, you can block access on an a la cart basis. When you download a new app, you will be asked if you want to let the app track your activity. You can select “Ask App Not to Track” or “Allow” if you are okay with that application collecting and using your data.
  • You can also opt-out of app tracking across every app you download by going to Settings > Privacy > Tracking, and toggling off Allow Apps to Request to Track. That way, any new app will be automatically informed you have requested not to be tracked. Also, all apps (unless you’ve already permitted them to track you) will be blocked from accessing your device’s information used for advertising. 
  • For apps that you have already downloaded and agreed to allow tracking, you can still turn those permissions on or off on a per-app basis in your device settings. 

The Lasting Effects Are Still Unknown

Predictions on how the Apple privacy update will affect consumer behavior, data sales, and ad revenues range from “meh” to Chicken Little-level “the sky is falling.” We will revisit this topic once we know if we can go about our business or need a hard hat.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, or on the new Apple privacy update, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

  • When doing your spring cleaning, consider making a digital spring-cleaning checklist. It is more important than ever in today’s digital-first society.
  • Digital spring-cleaning tips include backing up your information, deleting unused apps, reviewing all of your passwords (and making changes if needed), and checking your social media privacy settings.
  • It is also a good idea to delete or archive old emails, especially with sensitive information.
  • If you would like to learn more or believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can check out our latest resources or speak to an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Everyone looks forward to the spring! The weather changes, the flowers and landscape start to bloom, and people clean out clutter they don’t need before the summer arrives. While spring cleaning may make you feel good and productive, it is also a great way to minimize the risk of identity theft. With the move to a digital-first society, digital spring cleaning and having a digital spring-cleaning checklist is more important than ever. A few basic digital spring-cleaning steps could help keep one’s identity information out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

There are digital spring-cleaning steps to take before you have to deal with clutter. One possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. To do that, open the email, scroll down and click “unsubscribe.” Do not follow these steps for emails that appear to be scam attempts. If you click on a malicious link, it can redirect you to harmful websites or install malicious software on your computer. Instead, you should avoid links or attachments in unsolicited messages and block the sender.

One other thing you can do is update your contact information. Review all of your contact information to ensure it is up-to-date and you are not missing any essential information. Once you take these steps, you can begin on your digital spring-cleaning checklist.

Digital Spring-Cleaning Checklist

Your digital identity becomes more important every day as the world moves to a digital-first model. However, the same principles behind decluttering your physical world can help you in the virtual space. Here are some digital spring-cleaning checklist tips to digitally declutter:

  1. Backup your information– No matter how safe and secure you are, you might need to recover old data in the future. Creating automatic backups is a good idea. Consider investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription to store and protect the things you want to keep.
  2. Delete unused programs and apps– Take a look at all of the apps on your devices and figure out which ones you are not using. Delete unused apps or programs on the devices. This step is a good idea because some apps require large amounts of storage, can slow the device down, and most importantly, can introduce new vulnerabilities. The fewer apps and programs you have, the more secure your device and personal information will be.
  3. Review your passwords– Check the passwords for all of your accounts to ensure there are no duplicates (especially between work accounts and personal accounts). Also, make sure you use a strong and unique 12+ character passphrase for each account. They are easier to remember and harder to crack. If you cannot remember all of your passwords, consider investing in a password manager to store all of your passwords. Finally, if possible, enable multifactor authentication (MFA) on all of your accounts. The app version is better than the SMS version because scammers can create fake MFA SMS text messages.
  4. Update all of your apps and settings– When going through your digital spring-cleaning checklist, it is important to keep apps, programs and devices up-to-date on all software. The device will run faster, and it will lead to increased privacy, which will make it more difficult for someone to hack into them. It is also a good idea to enable automatic updates when possible.
  5. Look at the permissions you allow– Pay attention to the permissions you allow the mobile apps on your device because third-parties could be tracking information about you that you might not realize. If they aren’t actively using the collected data, they may still be storing it, leaving your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a data compromise.
  6. Review plugins and add-ons in your browser- Review the permission settings of the plugins and add-ons to make sure you are not sharing too much information. If you are not using a particular plugin or add-on anymore, delete it.
  7. Review your social media privacy settings– Check your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts to ensure you are not oversharing information with people you do not know. If criminals get a hold of enough information about you, your family and your friends, they can connect enough dots to commit scams based around social engineering.
  8. Clean out your email– Get rid of any unnecessary emails in your inbox, especially emails that contain personal information.

Other Digital Spring-Cleaning Tips

There are a few more spring-cleaning tips for people to follow:

  • While doing your spring cleaning, if there are important documents you might need later, you can photograph or scan them, and then store the originals in a secure space like a safe or bank safety deposit box.  
  • While you’re cleaning your email inbox, take a moment to destroy any paper documents you no longer need, especially those records with personal information.
  • It is also a good idea to organize your digital files. While it is time-consuming, it will make more space available for the most important things that need to be stored on your devices.

Contact the ITRC

If you have more questions about digital spring cleaning, a digital spring-cleaning checklist, or if you believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact us. You can chat with an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. You can also check out our latest resources. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Sparking joy has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the KonMari method of tidying up. Cleaning up your physical and digital life are some ways to prevent identity theft.

Marie Kondo took the world by storm in 2019 with the premise of decluttering your life, tidying up your home and workspaces and living by a simple principle: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” you don’t need it. The mindset behind the so-called KonMari method proved to be so effective that second-hand stores and thrift shops saw record-setting levels of donations.

This decluttering concept can be applied to physical possessions, but you should also consider its ability to benefit other areas of life. For example, you might clean up your email inbox or desktop. There’s another level of protection that consumers can take from this “spark joy” concept, and that’s keeping their identities out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

Several steps can help you organize your identity before you ever have to deal with cluttering consequences. These would include things like halting subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read, blocking credit card offers with your financial institutions and going “paperless” on bills and bank statements. By ensuring these things don’t arrive at your home, you’ll have less clutter to deal with and fewer security pitfalls that a thief could exploit.

Another possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the good habit of not just deleting unwanted emails but actively unsubscribing from them. You will have to open them, scroll down and click unsubscribe. Do not follow this procedure for emails that appear to be scam attempts. Clicking a link can redirect you to a harmful website or install malicious software on your computer. Instead, you should avoid links or attachments in unsolicited messages and block the sender.

One other thing you can do is update your contact information. Review all of your contact information to ensure it is up-to-date and you are not missing any essential information. There are other ways to prevent identity theft.

Physical Mail

As for identity tidying in your home or workplace, that can seem very daunting. Don’t worry; it’s not. By following commonly shared methods from organizational experts like Marie Kondo and others, you can start by creating “piles.” Establish a temporary spot for everything that could be linked back to your identity: a pile for bills, a pile for junk mail and a pile for important papers.

  • The bills: Your monthly statements must be accessible but protected. Find out where you are most likely to see them but keep others from coming across them. As you pay a bill, shred the remaining mailer portion so that you don’t end up with random piles of paper that will need to be addressed later.
  • Junk mail: It’s too easy to toss some junk mail on the counter and think you’ll deal with it later. It’s even easier to throw it in the trash unopened. However, that could lead a dumpster-diving identity thief to pieces of your overall data puzzle. Keep a basket near your cross-cut shredder to stash these items until you’re ready to shred.
  • Important papers: Many people would agree that tax documents, health insurance statements and other key forms don’t “spark joy” and therefore should be done away with immediately. However, that’s not wise. What is helpful is investing in a small file cabinet or file box where important papers can be stored when they are not needed. The file must be accessible in an emergency but not left out in the open where anyone could rifle through it.

Digital Clutter

Your digital identity becomes more important every day as the world evolves to a digital-first model. However, the same principles behind decluttering can help you in the virtual space. Investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription can protect the things you want to keep while getting them out of your physical space. Even better, if there’s a paper you might need at a later date, you can photograph it or scan it, then store it in these outside spaces. That way, you can discard the original but retain a protected printable copy if you need it. It is also a good idea to organize your digital files. While it is time-consuming, it will make more space available for the most important things that need to be stored on these devices.

Mobile Apps & Privacy Settings:

  1. Take a look at all of the apps on your device – are there any you’re not using anymore? Delete those.
  2. Visit your mobile device settings to see what information your applications collect from you and update them for increased privacy. For example, you might need to let a map app see your location, but does it need to be active all the time or just when in use? The same thing for photos, do all of your apps need access to your media library? It’s also a good time to run any updates for your phone software or apps.

You should also pay attention to the permissions you allow the mobile apps on your device. Third-parties might be tracking information about you that you might not realize like your location, search history and even your photos through these apps. If they aren’t actively using this collected data, they’re still storing it, leaving your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a breach. Also, think twice before discarding an old device and be sure to reset your factory settings.

Finally, make sure all of the passwords are different for each of your accounts and use a 12+ character passphrase. Right now, threat actors are after credentials more than in years past. You should have a different password for each account and use multifactor authentication if possible for an added layer of security. If you follow these steps, you will be enacting different ways to prevent identity theft. 

Contact the ITRC

If you have questions about tidying up your identity and ways to prevent identity theft, or if you believe you are a victim, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can reach an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. You can also find resources on an array of identity-related topics. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The post was originally published on 2/15/19 and was updated on 4/6/21