Data Breaches

data breaches graphicWhat Constitutes a Data Breach and How Does it Affect You?

A data breach occurs when sensitive information, including your bank account and social security number, dates of birth, credit card information or even utility bills are made publicly available.  Data breaches are not necessarily intentional acts cause by crazy internet hackers.  Carelessness and human error are the cause of many data breaches.  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean your sensitive information can’t be used fraudulently.  Once it’s out there for the world to see, most likely it’s going to stay there.

Data Breach Threat Level – High!

Unfortunately, there have been a significant amount of highly publicized data breaches in recent months.  Also unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them.  Even if you’re diligent about shredding your credit card and bank statements, using only secure websites, not giving sensitive information over the phone to solicitors, there is little you can do if a hacker wants to steal your information from a department store database.  Or if someone inadvertently releases sensitive customer information from a company server.  These breaches happen at your bank, place of work, doctor’s office, even the coffee shop you visit every day.

The Bad News

If you’ve received a notification that your information has been part of a data breach, you’re about 10x more likely to become the victim of identity theft.  If you haven’t had your information released as part of a breach, chances are it will happen to you sooner or later.  According to a Verizon data breach investigation, there were 44 million records released in data breaches in 2012 alone.

The report also found that only thirty percent of breach victims found the breaches themselves.  This means approximately seventy percent learned about the breach from someone else.  So this sensitive information could have been floating around undetected for weeks or months.

Companies work hard to keep data secure and prevent data breaches, but here are a few methods you can employ to help secure yourself against the release of sensitive personal information.

  • Never give anyone your Social Security number unless you absolutely have to.
  • Never create online passwords with commonly know information such as your kids names or birthdates
  • Always use multi-case, alphanumeric passwords with symbols whenever possible.
  • Change passwords frequently and never recycle old passwords.
  • Use different passwords across all of your accounts, so if one password is compromised, your other accounts will be safe