Mind The Grid

Mind The Grid

Easy Offensive Privacy

May 01, 2018

Easy Offensive Privacy

Read Time: 5 Minutes

A quick guide to easy offensive privacy

Guest Author: Jason Knowlton

Whether it’s the latest data leak or the uncovering of MORE people affected by the previous data breaches years past- we seem to be in a defensive state of data protection.

This guide will take you through a few common scenarios we are presented with almost daily, and some basic steps to protect yourself with an offensive strategy to simply secure your digital privacy and security.

Phone Numbers

Now, people should be treating their cell phone number as if it’s their Social Security number.

Your phone number is used to identify everything- banking information, mortgage information, insurance information, well really - everything. Your phone number is often used when you call somebody for help or assistance. On the phone they may ask you to provide the last four of your phone number for identification.

What can you do if you only have one phone number?

There’s an app called Sudo for iOS (and others). This will give you nine unique phone numbers that will ring your phone through the normal call app and never exposes your real phone number.  You can label these numbers so that when the number is called, you know which number they are calling. Sudo also allows you to text and create an email address. Handy stuff.

Store/Loyalty Cards

A use case for one of these Sudo numbers can be used for store and loyalty cards. Big box stores love collecting your phone number so they can offer you discounts on their products when you use this card. What they are doing is collecting that data and using it for market research and sometimes selling that information to other marketers to make a quick buck. This is one way your phone number ends up on the common "people" search sites.

When creating a store or loyalty card there’s nothing saying that you must use your real name and or address information. Do you want junk mail?

Instead of signing up in-store at the register go online to the retailer and sign up for loyalty cards there. You then can use any name that you want, any address (my favorite address to use is the stores own address) and then one of the pseudo-numbers. When you’re in the store next - quickly access the number via the Sudo App and provide. Easy peasy.

*Be weary of providing fake information to law enforcement or entity's that know already - ie. employers, government services, etc. 

PayPal

PayPal is inherently good and easy to use, but it comes with headaches. For instance every transaction from PayPal is shared across over 600 other data brokers. It’s hard to match what PayPal does currently without their services, so if you’re selling something online @ eBay, PayPal is built right in and is easy to use. You may have to take the loss of privacy if you must use PayPal, but you may not have to use them for everything.

Cashless Mobile Payments

If cash isn't an option, opt for a mobile pay reader - I highly recommend this.

This does a few things for you. You do not have to handover your credit or debit card and have them swipe the machine. When you do this they get your card information directly. When you use something like Apple Pay or Google Pay, the data transmitted is not your full credit card number or last four - it is a unique encrypted ID number for the transaction. The merchant will never see your credit card information and therefore your number cannot be compromised from that transaction. If the contactless transaction ID number somehow ends up being compromised, it’s useless anyways because it was a one time transaction that cannot be duplicated.

Mobile to Mobile Payments

There are also other tools to collect money owed. This could be $35 owed from a friend, paying a handy man or sending money to family. There are a few options but the one I prefer is Square Cash. This requires no login information from your bank, but you can add your debit card to send money and to receive money from your friends.

Venmo is used globally for mobile to mobile payments, but requires a bit more such as account creation, password, email and banking info. So if you're not comortable with that info potentially leaking, then opt for something different such as Square Cash. Venmo is also owned by Paypal.

Online Purchases (and take out)

Obviously if you order something online you cannot pay cash. What you can do is minimize the use of your real credit card and debit card information. This is where privacy.com comes into play.  

With privacy.com you can create burn cards, debit cards or single merchant cards in any amount or value that you choose.

So, if you need to place an order at Zappos.com and the order total is $55.64 you can create a privacy.com Visa Debit Card for that total only. Once Zappos completes the transaction that card is permanently closed and cannot be reversed. Even if the number is compromise from Zappos the card is now useless - more effort, but bigger gain. Another example is if you have a reoccurring payment such as a subscription to a magazine, news site or programming you can now create a privacy.com merchant card. This merchant card can also have a value that is limited, but also be set up for a monthly or yearly charge. You can set up a merchant card that card can only be used at the original place that it was charged -  meaning if that number is useless in the hands of someone else.

This is a free service, and yes they still make money, but not by selling your information. Privacy.com does not sell any of your data, it collects transaction fees associated with each transaction just like a regular guys.

What is nice about the services that you can create a debit card in a few seconds. I will use this when ordering takeout or delivery so that the merchant never has my real credit card or debit card information.

Equipped with this knowledge, you can now take an offensive approach to your privacy & security. After doing a self-evaluation, what tools can you use to improve your daily routines to ensure your data isn’t leaked by YOU?

Jason Knowlton is a privacy enthusiast, a combat veteran dedicated to helping other veterans at the Lift And Shift Foundation.  An organization to provide wounded veterans with alternative therapy options based in science and technology activities.

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