Shamma was feeling justifiably proud of herself. She had done what any responsible citizen should do- donate to a worthy cause. On one of her morning walks, she had noticed a banner displayed outside the local Rotary Club. They were in need of desktops for a computer literacy drive being conducted in the slums of Dharavi. Shamma’s 1990s vintage desktop has been lying unused for years. Shama was fairly sure that, with a bit of ingenuity, it could be restored to full working condition.
She decided to call the Rotary Club and arrange for someone to pick-up the computer. Her favourite music was playing in the background. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and her pet Chihuahua, Pixel, was in a playful mood. She had just made herself a cup of cappuccino when her phone buzzed. It was a message from her bank. It read – Protect yourself from fraud. Your digital devices may be vulnerable to data theft.
It was almost fortuitous. Shamma’s old desktop sat in a box, neatly packed, in a corner of the room. She had been waiting for the courier from the Rotary Club to arrive. She recalled that the hard disk of the computer she was about to give away had data that went back many years.
Some of it was highly sensitive and included bank account details, scanned copies of passport, credit card statements and countless income tax receipts. It contained vital information that a person with malicious intent would be able to exploit easily.
She had seen news reports on TV warning how personal information harvested from old memory cards and hard disks used in mobile phones and computers were prime targets for organized gangs. There was a lot of money to be made from selling such data on the internet, she realized. Stolen data was auctioned online with the highest bidder getting access to data belonging to millions of unsuspecting individuals.
A few weeks ago, one of her friends had lost more than Rs. 50,000 to online fraud. It was an innocent-looking phishing email that her friend had fallen prey to. Even otherwise, she was aware of the implications that data theft could have on her financial health. Identity theft, where her personal data could be used by impersonators to apply for credit cards, open bank accounts and even apply for loans was a chilling possibility that flashed across Shamma’s mind.
Account Take Over (ATO) was another infamous type of fraud she had experienced firsthand. Years ago, her husband’s bank account password and billing address was changed without authorization. It turned out that the change was made from a location in Jharkhand, a place that neither Shamma nor her husband had ever been to.
Unwiped data could also be used to create counterfeit copies of credit cards. Typically, once a card had been cloned, criminals would resort to making small purchases on it to verify the card number and the 3 digit security code on the reverse of the card. In a matter of hours, it was typical for them to make several transactions worth thousands of rupees before the activity was detected by fraud prevention teams at the bank.
While Shamma knew that she would not be held legally responsible for any unauthorized transactions, she has every reason to be concerned. Banking information is the jugular vein of any individual, she thought to herself. However, it was a nightmare Shamma could easily avoid by taking immediate action. She got to work immediately.
She got in touch with her friend Kiran, who worked in a firm specializing in data wiping services and conveyed her apprehensions. Thankfully, her friend had the software which deleted data from computer hard-drives permanently. Kiran came to Shamma’s home, installed the software and wiped off all the data.
Satisfied that all her data had been deleted, Shamma confidently handed over her gift to the courier boy.
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