More records are being stored online than ever before, and large swaths of personal data are increasingly falling into the hands of cybercriminals.
According to data collected by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, over 4 billion records have been stolen or accidentally leaked in the last decade, with over 7,000 separate breaches, and the frequency of mega-breaches compromising tens or hundreds of millions of people’s data is on the rise.
According to Insider, a hacker recently released 533 million Facebook users‘ personal information online for free, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, account IDs, and bios.
Cybercriminals use leaked personal data to launch a slew of other scams. Hackers can try to break into companies’ systems to deploy ransomware or extort them. At the same time, stolen records are regularly circulated online by cybercriminals and used for fraud.
Here are details to tell if your personal information has been compromised in a data breach and how to protect yourself.
Using free online tools, see if your personal information has been compromised.
When a company’s data is breached, it is legally required to notify users, but these disclosures are frequently made through vague public statements, leaving individual consumers in the dark. Fortunately, security researchers keep meticulous records of previous data points that you can use to see if you were affected by a breach.
HaveIBeenPwned.com, a database maintained by security analyst Troy Hunt, is one such resource. Anyone can enter their email address on the site, which compares it to more than 10 billion accounts compromised in previous breaches to see if they’ve been “pwned” or compromised.
Passwords is sometimes exposed as part of data breaches. Hunt’s website also includes a password checker that shows if hackers have ever compromised a user’s password.
Take steps to secure your accounts if you were a victim of a data breach.
If you discover that your personal information has been stolen due to a data breach, it’s time to take steps to protect your identity. Depending on the severity of the stolen data, you’ll need to file a report with the appropriate government agency. For example, if your social security number or driver’s license number were stolen, you’ll need to file a report with the appropriate government agency.
However, most data breaches involve less sensitive information such as email addresses and usernames. If your email address has been compromised, you should change your password and enable multifactor authentication to protect your email.
If you discover that your password has been exposed, you can no longer rely on it to keep your accounts safe, and you should change your passwords on all affected accounts right away. It’s also a good idea to set up multifactor authentication.
Finally, be on the lookout for any unusual activity on any of your accounts. Change your password and contact the account’s administrator if you notice suspicious activity.