Has Your Data Been Stolen? What To Do Now
Ours is a world in which data is the new oil — a highly sought after, valuable commodity. Hackers will go to extreme lengths in order to secure data, usually through illegal means and despite the best efforts of internet security companies.
A data breach is a loss of personal information and these days, it usually occurs in the online world. Cybercriminals hack into secure systems to obtain personal and financial information which is then circulated and sold on the dark web. This often begs the question, is the dark web illegal?
No — the dark web itself is legal but in saying that, it is also a hub for the sale of illegal goods and is often targeted by cybersecurity governmental organizations looking to bring down cybercriminals. It is not a place for casual browsing.
Data breaches are becoming more and more frequent and by now, have affected millions of internet users around the world. Being a victim of a data breach can be overwhelming and upsetting — here are some steps to follow should you discover that your information has been breached and is on the dark web.
Confirm The Data Breach
You may have heard on the news that a company you do business with has fallen victim to a data breach. You are probably panicking and running through a list of all the personal information you have provided them with. Well, first things first — confirm that your information is contained in the records that have been breached. The best way to do this is to reach out to the company in-person to confirm details of the security breach.
Determine What Data Was Stolen
This is the most important step to be taken after a data breach. Knowing what data was stolen helps in moving forward and taking appropriate action to mitigate any damage.
Data can be divided into two basic categories:
- Personal information: Includes a broad range of information that could identify an individual but doing so often requires specific circumstances or the provision of further data. Personal information includes a person’s name, date of birth, credit information, photographs, employee records, IP addresses, voice print, and facial recognition biometrics.
- Sensitive information: Includes information about an individual’s opinions and beliefs. Sensitive information includes details such as racial or ethnic origins, political associations, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation, criminal record, and health status.
Change All Passwords Immediately
If an online account has been compromised, change your password right away. If the same password has been used for any other accounts, change those as well. Using online software to check password strength is a great way to ensure account protection.
A hacker may store the passwords and other information for further attacks so immediately disregard that password for all future accounts. A two-way authentication can also improve safety by adding an extra layer of internet security and protection.
Seek Professional Assistance
A breached company should offer affected customers assistance in mitigating any damage caused, whether it be of a financial, governmental, or medical nature.
If your financial information has been breached, immediately contact your bank to freeze your accounts. If other personal information was stolen including your driver’s license, passport, or Medicare number, reach out to the relevant governmental organizations who will be able to provide assistance.
It’s important to monitor all of your accounts continuously for signs of damage. If a hacker decides to sell your information on the dark web, they may not immediately drain your bank accounts but instead, wait to act until your guard is down.
Close Your Accounts
This is often the last resort but closing email, financial and social media accounts are one way to completely reduce the risk of your personal information being stolen and misused. Should a cybercriminal purchase login details on the dark web, shutting down accounts ensures that they will not be able to commit any further damage.
No one wants to be a victim of a data breach but unfortunately, the level of information we share online combined with the cunning nature of cybercriminals is putting increasing numbers of us at risk. By engaging in strong internet security practices and being aware of the steps to take should your data be breached, you will hopefully be able to safeguard your personal information and mitigate any long term damage.