Data is the currency of a technological world. It’s what fuels online transactions, interactions, and privacy. It’s a valuable resource that tech companies continually mine for profitability. Due to its value, it’s no wonder that criminals come are tempted by it. In 2020, the U.S. alone had 155.8 million records exposed and an estimated million data breaches.
A data breach occurs when a person or group accesses, deletes, or alters data without authorization. Many personal, social, government, and commercial activities take place online or through computers. That means data breaches can be damaging to the individual or sectors of the country.
Types of Data Breaches
Generally, there are three types of data breaches. Each has unique characteristics and solutions. They are malicious attacks, human error, and system glitches.
These are intentional criminal acts. A bad actor targets you individually or as part of a group. They usually want your financial information so that they can steal. Other actions include ransoming your data after they encrypt it or using it to blackmail you.
Sometimes the weakest link in a secure system is the human element. Whether due to a weak password, falling for an attachment phishing scam, or social hacking, an individual can be a security leak.
Nothing is perfect, and that applies to software as well. Within the coding may be an error that can cause a data leak. Sometimes the error may occur from an upgrade.
Top 3 Data Breach Responses
A data breach can be scary for a multitude of reasons. Although it may be your first experience with it, you aren’t alone. Breaches are more common in today’s ever technologically-reliant world and there are measures you can take to recover and prevent future violations.
1. Determine What Was Stolen
After receiving the news of a breach, make an effort to understand the type of information they stole and how. The organization, department, or company responsible for security failure will give you the information, so contact them.
Some data breaches are more harmful than others, so the information will help you discern how seriously to take the breach.
For example, a data breach of your bookstore account isn’t as troubling as a breach of your bank account. You will also need to know what the hackers got away with. Was it your email address, username, or password that was compromised?
2. Change Your Credentials
Even if the breach didn’t affect your account, you should still take precautions when changing your login info. Make an effort to follow recommended cybersecurity guidelines, which includes:
- Use complex passwords and security questions that aren’t common knowledge.
- Use two-factor authentication as an added layer of protection.
- Install reputable antivirus software. The paid versions offer more protection, and you should keep them up to date.
- Install firewalls to stop unauthorized access to your websites, mail servers, and data.
- Keep your software, apps, web browsers, and operating systems updated. Updates have security patches and new features that improve your security.
- Use device encryption on all your devices.
- Create regular backups. Backups will give you a better starting point if your data is stolen or corrupted.
3. If the Breach Involves Financial Info
- Alert your bank about the breach and for potential fraud. They will cancel your card and issue you with a new one.
- Request and review financial reports to ensure that your stolen information isn’t used to create new accounts. You can ask for a credit freeze from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
If you need to create a new account, you can temporarily unfreeze your credit. Freezing your credit doesn’t affect your credit score.
If you are in the middle of a credit application, you can put a fraud alert on your credit report. It will alert creditors to be extra vigilant regarding any new credit in your name.
4. Closely Monitor Your Credit Card Activity
Freezing your accounts can’t prevent fraudulent charges; it can only prevent the creation of new accounts. Look through your credit card statements for any odd transactions; if you find one, alert the merchant. Also, remember that you can always request email or text alerts for transactions on your credit card.
Take Immediate Action
Indications are that data breaches will continue to rise in the future; the more society relies on tech, the more data it will use and create, leading to more data vulnerable to breaches.
If you experience a breach, take steps to resecure your data. There are good cyber hygiene habits that you can adopt; they will keep your data safer and harder to breach.