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The first data breach in 2019 came less than 24 hours after we rang in the New Year. An estimated 30,000 Australian civil servants had their personal information stolen after a government employee fell victim to a phishing scam. At this point, stories like this have become commonplace. Last year, for instance, in the span of six days, three major brands — Dunkin’ Donuts, Quora, and Marriott — revealed huge data breaches affecting millions upon millions of people.
And with the most recent “Collection #1-5” breaches, exposing over a billion emails and passwords, it’s almost certain that your information is currently for sale on the dark web. In fact, it may even be trading for free on sketchy forums right now.
2018 was a record year for data breaches, considerably outpacing 2017 (which itself established a new bar). It’s safe to assume, then, that 2019 is poised to take things to new levels, meaning the threat of identity theft and other financially devastating crimes is something we should all be concerned about.
The fact that such large organizations — including Facebook, Marriott, and Google — are failing to adequately safeguard customer data is a huge worry. As Experian notes in its industry forecast, it’s not that hackers are catching companies unaware; in fact, their annual study found that “data breach preparedness is at an all-time high,” with “82% of companies saying they have a response plan in place.” Rather, the issue is that cybercriminals have become more sophisticated, making it harder for organizations to adequately guard against all possible threats.
As the Australian government’s experience indicates, all it takes is one thoughtless click to expose the information of thousands, if not millions, of unlucky people. The only way, then, to slow down the frequency with which these attacks are successful is to better educate people about the methods that hackers use to exploit vulnerabilities, and invest in tools that are able to identify potentially suspicious activity over email and other channels.
As ever, individuals shouldn’t assume that the companies they interact with are able to keep their information safe. Instead, you need to be proactive, constantly monitoring the information you share with others and implementing security measures that would mitigate the impact of a data breach, should it occur. For starters, never use the same email and password combination on more than one account. That way, when the next breach occurs, the rest of your accounts won’t be exposed.
It’s easy to be dismissive of data breach news stories. After all, we hear about them all the time and seldom do we personally face any serious implications. But with the sharp rise in
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