InfoSec: How consumers’ financial data is spread across the Internet ─Report

*Researchers recommend it is vital for consumers to constantly check where they are sending their data, who they are sharing it with, and ensure that service providers are not mishandling their data

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In regard to the security of consumers’ information in the cyberspace, a new research has discovered that hundreds of companies around the world have access to it.

The fear of seeing your bank account drained is one that looms large over several consumers in recent times, cybersecurity experts said.

ConsumerConnect reports Information Security also called InfoSec, has been described as “the state of being protected against the unauthorised use of information, especially electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this.”

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It is the practice of protecting information by mitigating information risks as part of information risk management.

The more organisations that have sight of your most precious financial data online, the greater the likelihood of its being accidentally released or made less secure, CyberNews report said.

Researchers have also opined this is the fundamental reason the new data from Mine, a platform helping consumers to take ownership of their data online, is so alarming.

The global average person’s data is held by 350 companies with around 60 keeping Brits’ financial data, it noted.

The number of companies holding a person’s financial data has grown during the Coronavirus pandemic, while the number of data holders has ballooned by 400 percent  since the world was locked down, and billions of consumers spend more money online, thereby handing over “some of our most secretive data on bank accounts and credit cards to more suppliers.”

Gal Ringel, Co-Counder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mine, said: “As the world is slowly going back to normal, we expect to see a new hybrid way of consuming that will combine the digital world with the physical world.

“People’s financial data footprint has grown an astounding 400% since the start of the pandemic, and I have no doubt the digital acceleration and use of remote services, including more online payments and sharing financial data, will continue as people utilise online services.”

Who holds consumers’ data online?

In the research, the firm also found that some of the biggest beasts in online retail are unsurprisingly the companies and services with which consumers are sharing details of our financial accounts.

According to Mine, the top companies holding Brits’ financial data, for instance, are Paypal, Amazon and Apple, though eBay, Spotify and Argos – a UK retailer – also factor into the 20 top providers who hold our data.

Similarly, Mine noted that Eventbrite, which it said has become “the de facto place” to book tickets to events, including those held on Zoom during the pandemic, is also one of the organisations holding our data.

The report noted that before the Coronavirus pandemic, 25 percent of the top 20 companies holding Brits’ financial data were travel companies such as Booking.com, Airbnb, Easyjet, Trainline and British Airways.

However, the way we live and travel has changed – largely declining – and so the proportion of travel firms that factor into the top 20 holders of our data has dropped to just 10 percent now, according to report.

Experts also noted that gaming and entertainment has instead taken much of the places. Steampowered is in the ranks of popular companies, as are YouTube, Uber, Spotify and Coinbase.

One in four of the top 20 companies Brits trust to hold on to their financial data are gaming companies, said researchers.

The need to keep data secure in cyberspace

As consumers spread their data across more service providers, it becomes more important than ever that these pieces of information are kept secure in the cyberspace.

Mine stated if not, the consequences could be catastrophic, particularly when we are giving service providers unfettered access to bank accounts and credit cards.

Ringel said: “This trend, combined with on-going data breaches, highlights the importance of keeping a lean digital footprint by keeping track of who has our data – especially very sensitive data like our financial details.

“The onus also lies with businesses to make sure the financial data they hold is kept safe and sound, and importantly, once a user is done using the service, there are simple steps in to efficiently implement their ‘right to be forgotten.”

The firm also stated that as consumers, it is vital to constantly check where you are sending your data and who you are sharing it with, and to try where possible to make sure that they are not mishandling your data.

This, researchers said, could involve asking for it to be regularly deleted when you leave or discontinue a service or product with a provider.

Not doing so could be a disaster for consumers, and for their bank accounts and hard-earned monies.

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