Your data that’s stored with an organization you trusted could become exposed due to a targeted cyber attack or data breach. If your data was part of a public data breach, you need to change any compromised passwords, monitor your accounts for suspicious activity, freeze your credit and notify any relevant parties of the data breach.
Continue reading to learn more about data breaches, how to recover from a data breach and how to prevent future data breaches from happening.
What Is a Data Breach?
A data breach is when sensitive data of a user or organization is accessed, stolen and used by unauthorized users. Cybercriminals can access sensitive data when it is accidentally exposed due to human error or through vulnerabilities in data infrastructure. They can also steal sensitive data by targeting a user or organization with a cyber attack. Data breaches can lead to identity theft in which threat actors steal a victim’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and impersonate them to commit fraud.
Data breaches are often the result of data leaks, targeted cyber attacks or malicious insider threats.
Data leaks: Sensitive data unintentionally exposed from within an organization. Data leaks are often the result of human error and can be the result of accidentally revealing sensitive information to the public, an internal user having unauthorized access to sensitive data or improperly storing sensitive data.
Targeted cyber attacks: Attacks on computers, networks or systems by cybercriminals in an attempt to steal sensitive information. Cybercriminals exploit a user or organization’s security vulnerabilities such as software bugs or weak cybersecurity practices. They exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access and steal sensitive data.
Malicious insider threat: A cyber threat that happens within an organization. They occur when current or former employees, partners, contractors or vendors intentionally expose or steal sensitive data for malicious purposes.
How To Recover From a Data Breach
If you received a notification that your sensitive data has been exposed in a data breach, you need to act quickly to identify the impact of the data breach and mitigate the impact. The first step is to identify what information of yours was exposed in the data breach. Once you have identified the information that was exposed, you can take the necessary steps to contain the damage and mitigate the effects of the data breach. Here are the steps to recover from a data breach.
Change any compromised passwords
When you have determined what sensitive information was revealed in a data breach, you need to change any compromised passwords for the accounts associated with it. You should create new and unique passwords that are difficult to guess. To easily change compromised passwords, you should use a password manager.
A password manager is a tool that securely stores and manages your personal information, such as your passwords, in a digital encrypted vault. With a password manager, you have access to all of your passwords and can use it to help change them with the built-in password generator.
Monitor accounts for suspicious activity
After you have changed the compromised passwords, you need to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity to determine if cybercriminals still have access. Look for any suspicious activity such as:
- Fraudulent charges
- Additional debt
- Unknown logged-in devices
- Changes in security settings
- Failed login attempts
- Unfamiliar messages
- Unauthorized applications for loans
Freeze your credit
Cybercriminals can use your sensitive information to apply for loans or open lines of credit under your name, which can hurt your credit and leave you with large amounts of debt. If your sensitive information was exposed in a data breach, you need to individually freeze your credit with each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. If you fail to contact all three of the credit bureaus, then a cybercriminal can still apply for a loan under your name.
If you are afraid your leaked information could lead to identity theft, you should apply for a fraud alert. A fraud alert is a free notice that you can add to your credit report that requires you to verify your identity before you’re able to take out a loan under your name. It protects you from identity theft and helps to ensure that only you can take out loans or open lines of credit under your name. To place a fraud alert, you would need to contact one of the credit bureaus.
Notify any relevant parties
Depending on the sensitive information revealed in the data breach, you need to notify any relevant parties of the data breach. For example, if your credit card information is exposed, you should contact the bank to cancel the card and get a new one. Contact your social network if your online accounts were compromised as they can be used for phishing attacks. If your company’s data was exposed, contact your company to inform them, so they can take the proper steps to handle the security breach.
How To Prevent Future Data Breaches
Although you may have taken the right steps to recover from a data breach, cybercriminals may try to retarget you for future cyber attacks to steal your information. You need to take precautionary measures to prevent future data breaches. Here are the ways to prevent future data breaches.
Use strong and unique passwords
You need to use strong and unique passwords to protect your online accounts from cybercriminals. By using unique passwords for each of your accounts, you can prevent cybercriminals from executing credential stuffing attacks and compromising multiple accounts. Strong passwords make it difficult for cybercriminals to guess and crack your passwords.
Strong and unique passwords protect your accounts that hold sensitive information. You should create passwords that are at least 16 characters long. Each password should have a unique and random combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. You should avoid including personal information, sequential numbers or letters and commonly used dictionary words when creating passwords.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security protocol that requires users to provide additional forms of authentication to gain access to their accounts. With MFA enabled, you need to provide your login credentials along with an additional form of identification to access your accounts. MFA provides an extra layer of security by ensuring only authorized users are allowed access to your accounts. Even if your login credentials were compromised, cybercriminals would not be able to access your accounts since they wouldn’t be able to provide the additional authentication.
Keep your software up to date
Cybercriminals will try to exploit security vulnerabilities of outdated software that allow them to bypass security measures and install malware. You should regularly update your software to patch any security flaws and add security features that better protect your device. Keeping your software up to date will help prevent cybercriminals from accessing your data.
Reduce your attack surface
An attack surface refers to all of the possible entry points where cybercriminals can access a system and steal data. A large attack surface makes it harder to manage the various points where a cybercriminal can attack you and gain unauthorized access to your sensitive information. Reducing your attack surface will limit the opportunities a cybercriminal has to attack you. You can reduce your attack surface by deleting inactive accounts, getting rid of unnecessary applications, strengthening login credentials and updating your software.
Stay educated about cyber attacks
Cybercriminals are always finding new ways to attack users and steal their sensitive data. You need to stay educated about new cyber attacks to recognize and avoid them. Take precautionary measures to prevent cyber attacks from successfully impacting you or your organization.
Keeper® Helps Prevent Future Data Breaches
The best way to implement cybersecurity best practices and prevent future data breaches is by using a password manager. With a password manager, you can store and protect your personal information such as your login credentials, Social Security number, passport, IDs and other sensitive data. It will help you strengthen your accounts with access to sensitive data and help you change any compromised passwords if you suffer a data breach.
Keeper Password Manager uses zero-trust and zero-knowledge encryption to protect your personal information. This ensures that only you have access to your digital vault. Sign up for a free trial to protect your sensitive information from data breaches.