The Pandora Papers is the latest offshore leak from the ICIJ to hit the wires and seemingly targets a few major offshore service providers and, by extension, their clients. Much has been made in the press about the “illegal” use of these corporate structures and how all these political exposed people use them to cheat their respective countries. However, the truth is quite a bit different and much of what has been printed about it remains nothing, but the typical media beat up.
The reality is that most of the offshore companies and trusts were in place for legitimate reasons unrelated to tax evasion. One of the most common reasons for setting up an offshore trust is asset protection and as a liability shield and this is something that the media has failed to report on in the fracas that is the Pandora Papers.
In the litigious world that we live in today, legal action against the wealthy is relatively common and so it makes perfect sense to place those assets outside of reach of any single individual or nation state. It’s a diversification strategy that has worked and will remain to work in the coming years. It’s also one that I advocate strongly given the ongoing creep away from capitalism in the West. Subsequently, it isn’t any surprise that the offshore services sector is being attacked in the way that it is given the current penchant to blame everything on the wealthy.
The real question remains as to whom is responsible for the ongoing, illegal, hacking attempts that have undermined the industry. I’ll leave that one to your imagination because it clearly isn’t concerned individuals “leaking” data.
The Privacy Aspect
In many ways the recent leaks have actually done a favor to many of us who are keen on diversifying our lives and assets. It has focused our minds upon the fact that privacy, both online and offline, must remain at the forefront of our minds in 2021-22. When you consider everything from Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) registers, Beneficial Owner Disclosures, and Vaccine Passports et.al there has been a massive increase in the amount of information being requested daily. The problem is that you have no way of certifying either the use or the security of this critical personal data.
Subsequently, I would always advise you to be extremely careful, especially in digital format, who you are providing information to. You need to undertake a risk analysis of each request to ensure that:
- There need for information is necessary and reasonable.
- What their information security policy is (typically available online for most companies).
- Is the service you are looking to access worth the potential public release of your personal data.
It’s amazing to me that people that are keenly looking to maintain a layer of personal confidentiality are otherwise happy to provide their legitimate address details to an online webservice like Netflix or Hulu. They don’t consider the risk of database breaches and hacking that then leaks your data for sale on the dark web. You should be aware that there is a thriving dark web market for personal details and identities, and you truly do not want your personal information being used by hackers, as well as governments, on the dark web.
However, aside from the above, there are some key actions you can take today that will help to secure your online footprint at a minimum. Namely, they are:
- Start using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) to surf the web. Ideally, you should use the onion router (TOR) to surf normal websites to restrict anyone snooping on your online activities.
- Start using a secure email service rather than Gmail or Outlook which are rumored to be an open book for government’s looking to access personal information. A Service such as Proton Mail is ideal given the encryption options available.
- Encrypt your laptop with a system wide encryption service especially when you travel.
- Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi as you would be amazed what other users on that network can see using a program like Wireshark.
- Use complex passwords and don’t use the same password for every site you are on.
- Enable 2FA – 2 Factor Authentication for everything you can.
These are just a few basic techniques that you can deploy immediately that will reduce your online footprint and start you towards improving your digital security.
You might be reading this and thinking that “Who would want to look at me?” but the answer is undoubtedly a lot of people. Ultimately, this decade is all about information and data and your personal data is worth money and power to the right people. Edward Snowden’s recent revelations has shown that there is a mass surveillance project ongoing around the world and this data is now starting to be used in unusual ways. Subsequently, start taking the risk and your personal information security seriously…especially in light of the hacking that has occurred in relation to the Pandora Papers.