Have You Been The Victim Of A Data Breach?

Data breaches are not a new thing.  Software and online companies are rich pickings to hackers and if they can find a way to breach and get that data, they will.

Most people assume data breaches won’t happen to them.  Like car accidents, no one expects it until some idiot rear-ends you.  Rather than waiting until you get hit, it’s a good idea to be aware and do some checking.

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Your data is big business

One of the reasons some people seem to think data breaches and hacks won’t happen to them is because they aren’t a big business, they aren’t the government or any high interest organisation.  So who’d bother with them?

Criminals.  Criminals would bother with you.  Hackers don’t just go after the big targets, and breaches happen in all sorts of places.  So stay alert and do what you can to keep your data safe.

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Monitoring

I use a monitoring service that informs me if my email addresses and passwords have been leaked.  I get a message if there’s a breach and they tell me which program had the breach.

So when one of my passwords was in a data breach recently, I was given a quick heads up. This allowed me to check to make sure there were not pastes.

I then changed my password immediately for that email address.

I use Firefox Monitor, which gives you the option of signing up to receive alerts and also monitors multiple email address.

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Have you been breached?

If you want to check your own email address, you can do so quickly with Have I Been Pwned?

This website will allow you to type in your email addresses and will inform you if there’s ever been a breach.  You can also check any passwords you use to see if they’ve been exposed.

Breach

For those who don’t know, a breach is where data, such as your email, password, name etc may have been inadvertently exposed.

This can happen when a system has insufficient protections, weaknesses in their security or have been hacked.

Paste

A paste is the term used when data has been “pasted” into a website where it can be shared publically.  Sites like these are used by hackers in order to share personal data.

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Protecting your Data

Email is used for everything, almost all sites now need you to log in to access something, even online shops rarely have the “guest” option and need you to create an account.

That’s a lot of online places for your email to be.  Not to mention, many now insist on a phone number too.

So, how do you stay safe online?  Remember you are at least partly responsible for protecting your own data so take it seriously.

Strong passwords

It might be frustrating when we have to choose a password and you are given like a dozen rules to follow

  • must have 2 numbers
  • must have a capital
  • must include a special character
  • must be at least 100 letters long

  • must be done during a full moon blood ritual

But the rules ARE there to help keep you safe.  People pick really dumb passwords…you know…like “password” or “iloveyou” or “qwerty”.  By the way, these are in the list of worst possible passwords to use, so I hope none of you uses them.

Take your passwords seriously, make it complicated.  There are programs out there that can run common words through to check passwords.  So if you use a single word like “password” or “welcome” you’re just making it easy.

Who can remember all those complicated passwords?

I understand, but there are ways around that such as using a Password Manager (I’ll be discussing that in another article) or even writing the passwords down in a notepad.

Shockingly, this is actually pretty safe as long as you don’t carry it around with you when you go out!  Data breaches are done online, not from people breaking into your home and stealing your password notebook.

This will also stop you using the SAME password on everything.  Don’t get me wrong, even I’ve been lazy and used the same (weak!) password multiple times but I shook myself out of that habit and you can too.

Separate Email

Don’t use a single email for everything.  Especially as some sign-ups just end up spamming you to death.  Create either a temporary email such as GuerrillaMail that uses a disposable email.

Or have a separate email you use for all things sign-up-y.  I am often asked to buy things for my mother.  Since these places always insist on your signing up and then seem to take forever to delete your account/unsubscribe you – I use a separate email that way I’m not constantly wading through spam.

When I created this account, I also used false data so my real name, birthday etc is not linked to that account.

Multi-Factor Authentication

If you have access to enable multi-factor authentication then go ahead.  This can be in the form of receiving a text or email that gives you a unique code for a short time.

This makes it harder for cybercriminals to get into your system.

Firewalls and Antivirus

A good firewall and antivirus program will often catch a questionable website.  There are a lot of cloned websites and emails out there that look legit but aren’t.

Make sure your antivirus protection package includes the ability to catch these false websites before you go dropping in your data.

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Hope you found this helpful everyone, and if you haven’t already, go check to make sure your emails haven’t been caught in a breach.

Happy writing

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19 thoughts on “Have You Been The Victim Of A Data Breach?

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  3. Such an important topic. I use a password protection software and regularly update my passwords to keep business and personal details safe. Hopefully that’s enough, but scammers are savvy.

    1. So true, Lorraine. I have been going through and tightening up my passwords. My password manager tells me if my passwords have been used before, if they are safe or super safe. So I’m working on making them all super safe.

      Scammers are so frustrating and you really do have to keep alert to them.

  4. 2FA is definitely worth it. Never had it come up as an issue myself yet, but I’ve known people who’ve gotten texts about login attempts.

    Just don’t leave your phone, no password protection, just laying out somewhere.

    1. I am always shocked how many people don’t even have like a basic code lock on their phones! In this day and age when it’s so easy to get your phone stolen or lost, how can people not have the basic level of protection!

  5. I understand that hackers are trying to infiltrate the stimulus checks the U.S. Government is sending out. They will scam you out of your last cent it seems. The scammers will likely have a field day in this pandemic if you are not diligent about watching your bank accounts, credit card charges. They will assume most of us are distracted, then strike mightily.

    1. It’s so sad that there’s always someone out there who uses a situation like this to hurt people. Being diligent is so important. We make sure to check our bank accounts each week and even our credit reports once a month, just in case.

      1. Yes, opportunistic people are everywhere Ari. Many years ago, long before online shopping, over here in the U.S., when one went shopping and used a credit card, it was recommended to ask for that store’s “backup yellow copy” – I always did this, then got my Visa bill one month and it had over $800.00 (looks like that is almost the same as EUR) of charges from the Home Shopping Network. I did not have cable TV, never ordered from Home Shopping Network and it was taken off my bill immediately, but when I asked specifics about who had unlawfully charged items using my number, I was told that that information was privileged and they could not divulge it to me. There’s something very wrong about that isn’t there?

      2. That is awful! I am so glad they were at least able to reverse it. So easy to get some of these card numbers and I don’t think it’s right they didn’t tell you the specifics.

        I remember, when I was like 18 and working in an office, we used to sell these figurines via mail order.

        The number of ladies who would ring up to order and after like their 3rd order they insisted I “write down their card details” so they didn’t have to keep telling me them.

        This was before doing it via the keypad on the phone and instead we took ALL the details and manually typed it into a card reader. I ended up with a small notebook that had about 20 or 30 credit card numbers and all other relevant details in.

        I hated it and was so paranoid, that I hid it every night in case there was a break in and someone found it.

      3. I thought it was wrong too Ari. Often banks are quick to cite “Freedom of Information” and that it is privileged info. I would have made a big deal out of it but they wiped the charge off my card, so I said “thank you” and was done with it. I can see how you would be paranoid about keeping all that information on hand because if there was a breach of the credit card information, they would have blamed you. Now, I think with the exception of Amazon, no card information is stored. We have so many hospital medical information breaches – it seems like there is always one of those happening. That’s a real nightmare too!

  6. I tried my current email address. No problems there. However, my old Hotmail address has been breached 13 times. Microsoft discontinued Hotmail which they owned and replaced with Outlook which a real pain to use. My old Outlook address has breached 27 times and the old email address that I had with a former ISP has been breached 3 times. In all cases, I was never notified by Microsoft or my former ISP.

    My account on Facebook has been accessed but there’s nothing of value there. But it’s bloody annoying when corporate greed takes the place of client/customer privacy.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom. I totally forgot about old emails! I just checked mine, one of the old hotmails was in a breach but just once.

      Outlook was awful, hotmail might not have been great but Outlook is what drove me to gmail instead.

      1. I used Outlook as my primary email client, with Hotmail serving as a backup email address. I prefer to communicate verbally but my voice permanently damaged thanks to throat cancer I contact more people via email now. There are few truly sensitive documents except for my lawyers.

        I look at it this way. No computerized systems are truly secure. If somebody wants to get in, they will eventually get in. Most hacks are done by accident – somebody fooling around, trying to get in, but not really expecting to. What really annoys me is when some company that should pride itself on the privacy of the their customers puts corporate greed ahead of fixing problem areas like Microsoft and Facebook. The Canadian gov’t has identified many problems with FB but can’t do anything because it’s an American company. And as a Canadian, I have to be aware that my post, text, photo, etc are not secure despite all claims to the contrary by FB. I found one of my posts taken from FB and on a web site with somebody else’s name attributed to it.

      2. It is always shocking that corporate greed can put peoples data (and in too many cases) their lives in danger.

        I am not surprised FB has problems, it’s not a great site to begin with and as for people stealing your stuff and putting their name to it… I’m sad to say, I am not surprised. People love to take credit for other people’s work. *sigh*

  7. I remember one time where the library system I work for was exposed to an Emotet virus. The public computers were off limits for a long time, and I changed a number of my passwords as a result too.

    1. It’s shocking the targets they will hit. It’s horrid that they can mess up something like a library and take away a vital asset to some people, (free use of computers).

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