All you need to know about data breaches
If you follow the news, you’ll probably notice that there seems to be a huge major data breach every week. The details vary, but in each breach, thousands, millions or even billions of victims’ sensitive information is compromised, and they’re now vulnerable to identity theft unless they take immediate action.
At Arsenal, your financial success and safety is our primary goal. To help keep your information and your finances secure, we’ve compiled this guide on data breaches.
What is a data breach?
Data breaches occur when sensitive information is accessed or used without authorization. Factors like a wealth of online data and sophisticated hacking tools have spurred a steep increase in data breaches in recent years, causing tremendous damage to individual consumers and businesses across every industry.
Data breaches occur by exploiting vulnerabilities in a company’s security system. Alternatively, an employee can be tricked into giving a cybercriminal access to the company’s network.
The goal of most data breaches is to obtain personal information, like names, email addresses and passwords, as well as financial information, like credit card numbers and account details. This information is used by criminals to steal identities and empty accounts, or sold to other criminals who will then do so.
While major data breaches make headlines, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there is an average of three data breaches each day, most of which will never even make the news.
After a data breach
Whenever you hear about a major data breach that can possibly affect you, it’s best to monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. In most cases, you’ll be notified by the victimized company if your data has been compromised. However, it helps to keep an eye on your accounts even if you haven’t been contacted so you can minimize your loss by acting quickly if your are among the unfortunate victims.
If you’ve been victimized by a breach…
Take the following steps immediately:
- Freeze your credit: Placing a freeze on your credit is the most crucial step you can take to stop scammers from stealing your information. This added layer of protection makes it difficult or impossible for hackers to open a new credit line or loan in your name.
- Change your passwords: Hackers often hold onto victims’ information immediately following a data breach and then sell it months down the line to other cybercriminals. To protect your accounts from a delayed-reaction hack, change all of your passwords after a breach that has possibly affected you.
- File an identity theft report: If you believe your identity has been stolen, file an identity theft report with the FTC as soon as possible.
Protecting your information
- Monitor your credit: Check your credit accounts for suspicious activity on a regular basis. You can request a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Use strong, unique passwords: Use a different password for each account, and choose codes that are at least eight characters long. Also, use a variety of numbers, letters and symbols. Using a password manager like Dashlane or iPassword can also help keep your information safe. It’s also a good idea to choose two-factor authentication when possible.
- Browse safely: Never share sensitive information online and always keep your security and spam settings at their strongest levels. Make sure your devices are fully updated at all times.