Your most sensitive data is online. Of course, you don’t just post your bank details and medical records anywhere, but hackers still find them and then sell them to anyone willing to pay.
It’s not just tech geniuses who get away with this stuff. Sophisticated software is available for purchase or monthly subscription.
Wondering how many times you’ve been exposed? This is the best website to check out. Pro Tip: Check all your email addresses.
At the time, news of a breach or hack was shocking and chilling. Now, it happens so often that you might not think twice when you get this notification. It is a mistake.
How often does this happen?
More often than you think. In 2022, 1,802 data breaches were reported, affecting more than 422 million people, just below the 2021 record.
Cybercriminals get their hands on a whole host of your data through hacks, leaks, physical thefts, human error, phishing attacks, ransomware, and other means. This includes social security numbers, bank account and credit card details, medical records, pa*swords, device information and more.
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Companies and institutions are legally required to disclose data breaches, so if you have been involved, you will receive some sort of communication letting you know what was accessed (if that information is available at the time).
So what should you do?
If you’re used to ignoring data breach alerts, this list might seem like overk**l, but trust me. It’s worth taking steps to protect your data after it’s been exposed. It can, and could very well, get worse if you don’t.
- Call your bank and credit card providers. Freeze and replace all your cards.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file. All you have to do is contact one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The FTC lists real websites and phone numbers here.
- Monitor your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity. It may take a while for something strange to appear, so stay alert on this one.
- Change your account pa*swords. It’s painful, but it’s your first line of defense. Remember that once a pa*sword is exposed, it is banned from all other accounts.
- Consider a monitoring or identity theft protection service. In the event of a major breach, the exposed company will often offer it for free. To take advantage of. These services do a lot of the hard work for you.
A little prevention goes a long way
Being smart about how you react is one thing, but it’s also worth being proactive.
- Use strong and unique pa*swords: Your pa*swords should be a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters and should be different from account to account.
- Run a regular credit report: You can do this once a year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for any suspicious loans, lines of credit or anything else.
- Use multi-factor authentication everywhere: Adding another step to the login process is annoying, but worth it. Make this mandatory for all financial or medical accounts. Bonus points if you do so for every account that allows it.
- Keep up to date: Regular updates are your best protection against security flaws and vulnerabilities. Judging by the number of patches in the tech world this year alone, security professionals and hackers are working just as hard. Don’t wait if you see a new update for your phone, tablet, computer, smart speaker, or whatever.
- Encryption of sensitive data: You are making a mistake if you have medical records, financial documents, or other information on your desk that could put you at risk. Today’s malware is sophisticated enough to steal it all if it sneaks onto your computer. The encryption makes the data unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the pa*sword to unlock it.
- Let cloud storage do the work: Not everyone is comfortable encrypting their own data. Fair enough. I highly recommend finding an encrypted cloud storage solution you can trust. My choice is IDrive, a sponsor of my national radio show.