How can data breaches at Equifax, Ashley Madison, Yahoo and others affect you?
Data breaches at big companies have become a part of modern life. Other than garnering some bad publicity, most of these companies where the breach happened seem to recover and do fine. Unfortunately, the data that was breached is usually our personal information and it is us who bear the brunt of these mishaps.
It has been recently reported by several sources the Equifax breach exposed personal data of 143 million people in the US, LinkedIn data breach exposed data of 100 million people, Uber 57 million, Target 40 million and Yahoo breach exposed data of 3 billion accounts. With such numbers, other data breaches exposing data of of 4 million accounts at Ashley Madison, 100,000 at the IRS, or 7,000 from Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center seem almost insignificant. But, all of these data breaches are significant and any one of these breaches and countless others can directly affect YOU.
All data breaches are not the same in that they expose different types of your personal data that has been collected on you. For example, the Yahoo breach exposed account names, email addresses and passwords for most people, but the Equifax data beach exposed a whole lot more of your personal identity data, including your social security number, physical address, drivers license number etc.
The common remedy offered by the companies whose data was breached is instructing you to change your password in case your account information and password was compromised. In the case your ID information was breached, the company may offer a year of free credit monitoring, sometimes in return for a release of liability, something you may want to be wary about. These first steps may mitigate the short-term affects of the breach, but does nothing for your long-term privacy and peace of mind.
Most stolen data is not readily accessible by us and is sold to cyber stalkers on the dark web. It is these hackers and other cyber stalkers who buy the stolen data who try to get a credit card in your name or send you targeted phishing emails. However, there are exceptions – Ashley Madison site hackers out of spite or ideology have published the breached data on their sites to shame users of that site.
Should you experience a privacy breach in the form of ID theft, you must take action to prevent further damage. US FTC recommends the following steps be taken as soon as possible:
Assuming the data breach exposed your account name, email and password you will be exposed to phishing attempts via email. Other techniques used by cyber thieves holding the breached information are very aggressive brute force password attack attempts, or a very subtle attempts such as luring you to watering holes or malvertisements may be sent to the target user, you.
You can’t stop an external attack, but you can disrupt the attack targeting mechanism employed by these cyber thrives. Using an anti-virus program, being aware of phishing emails and not opening them are some of the ways you can protect yourself. Using PrivatizeMe’s “Effortless Privacy Protection” is another way – it defeats attempts by cyber stalkers to invade your online privacy without changing the way you browse. With such protection from being stalked, digital fingerprinted and profiled, you cannot be targeted with spear phishing exploits and malvertisements or be led to targeted watering holes laden with malicious malware.