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Unfortunately, in real life, hackers are not wiping out all our credit card and student loan debt. While there are legitimate and positive benefits to hacking, and many hackers never do anything malicious, some do engage in illegal, fraudulent, and exploitative actions. With new data breaches being reported almost weekly, many people often wonder what hackers even do with all that stolen data.
Typically, we think of stolen data as a problem for businesses, or in terms of corporate espionage; however hackers have learned to get much more creative, and even more elusive, with what they do with stolen data. Individuals are at as much as risk as businesses, but unlike businesses, individuals often cannot afford to suffer the consequences.
The most frequently committed crimes after a data theft are, not surprisingly, financial and fraud crimes. Not only will criminal hackers attempt to steal money directly from a business or person's financial accounts, they will commit identity theft as well.
Identity theft crimes have also gotten more sophisticated with hackers making false insurance claims, and using your data in other unimaginable ways, like filing a fraudulent tax return on your behalf.
Where's My Stolen Data Going?
It is increasingly common for a hacker to not do anything themselves with data they steal. Rather, they sell the data to another criminal, over the internet, who will use it as part of some illegal money making scheme. Once purchased, a hacker can combine different types of stolen, as well as public, data about a specific person to infiltrate their online accounts.
Conversely, some hackers don't even bother with actually stealing data anymore. Ransomware has become an alarmingly regular problem. A ransomware attack essentially locks a person, or business, out of their data, until they pay the hacker a fee. While these attacks are much more common among businesses that rely on electronic data, individuals have been targeted as well.
To avoid being a target of hacking (though if you're being targeted, it's probably unavoidable), exercise caution when surfing, or connecting to, the internet.