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Data Breaches: Ways to Protect Our Credentials

Ever since the foundation of the internet, espionage, and data theft actions have been switched online up until today. We have witnessed the data of many companies, regardless of how big they are, being disclosed to the public, and the number keeps growing every day. From elderly individuals who are unaware of the key functions of a computer to large companies with multimillionaire shareholders, everyone can be a victim of an unauthorized data breach. To protect our data from a possible leakage, we have to know what a data breach is.

What is a data breach?

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a data breach is defined as a security incident in which sensitive protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so. Data breaches may contain anything from the simplest information such as date of birth, up to the most private ones like credit card or bank account details. Furthermore, these breaches can be intentional or accidental. A cybercriminal may hack the database of a company where your credentials are stored, or an employee at that company may accidentally leak your information to the internet. Either way, criminals can access your exposed information and profit them at your expense.

Why do data breaches occur?

Cybercrime is a lucrative business and keeps growing day by day. Hackers look for valuable information to steal money, compromise identities, or gain profit through selling them on the dark web. Data breaches may occur for several reasons, but here are the most common ones listed:

  • Exploiting system vulnerabilities. Outdated applications can create a hole that lets an attacker slip malware into a device and steal data.

  • Weak passwords. Weak and insecure passwords are easier for criminals to access, especially if the password contains words or phrases.

  • Drive-by downloads. You could unintentionally download a virus or malware by simply visiting a compromised web page.

  • Targeted malware attacks. Attackers use spam and phishing email tactics to attempt to trick users into revealing their credentials, downloading malware attachments, or directing users to vulnerable websites.

 
What should I do to protect my data in the event of a breach?

To protect yourself and your details, the following are a few steps you can take:

  • Use strong, secure passwords. Complex passwords are always harder to crack. Using simple numbers, words or phrases might be an easy guess for anyone, so try to avoid using them.

  • Monitor your account activities. Try to check every account of yours that contains valuable information daily. Certain services may offer suspicious activity alerts, try to sign up for them.

  • Take action as soon as possible. If you notice any suspicious activity, try to contact your service provider as soon as possible.

  • Use only secure URLs. Reputable sites begin with https://. This is especially important when entering credit card or other personal information.

  • Always leave an antivirus software on duty. Running an antivirus can prevent malware from trying to enter your device via downloads or web surfing.

  • Check if any of your emails or passwords were compromised from past data breaches. Many websites are offering this service, but the most reputable one is haveibeenpwned.com.

  • Periodically change your passwords. Any unnoticed data breach on the database side may be harmful to you in the long run.

  • Do not use the same password across other accounts. This means one stolen password may affect all of your other accounts, so try to avoid using it repetitively.

 

Additionally, to protect your passwords being compromised, there are various password management services, such as 1Password, LastPass, etc. You may use these services to store all of them in one place and manage them easily.

In conclusion, in the modern world, it is inevitable to make cybercrime stop. It is a benefit able industry that keeps growing since the invention of the internet. Protecting our data from being stolen is in our hands. We have to act cautiously and responsibly. Data breaches are likely here to stay, and the best defense against them is a good offense. Educate yourself and be diligent about monitoring your online life. There may be laws, policies, and procedures in place to help protect your information, but it still makes sense to stay engaged and alert even as you enjoy the convenience that a connected life delivers.

by Ümit Altar BİNİCİ

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