We live in a time where data leaks and breaches have become a common occurrence. Because everything is stored on the internet, this gives malicious actors a unique opportunity to abuse your privacy for their personal gain.
Even the biggest companies have fallen victim to these exploits, resulting in serious reputation damage and crazy fines from regulatory bodies for not protecting the user’s information.
So, if you suspect that your information was exposed or you want to prepare in case it happens in the future, we got you. We’ll explore all the ins and outs of data leaks and share ways to deal with them.
What Is a Data Leak?
A data leak is an incident that results in unintentional or intentional exposure of sensitive data. Data leaks can happen on the internet, but also on hard drives and laptops.
Basically, if there’s a security flaw in your system and a hacker recognizes it, the chances are that he’ll use that backdoor to steal sensitive data and abuse it or sell it on the dark web. There are two main forms of data leaks:
- Data breach – when hackers gain access to sensitive information through a planned attack
- Data leak – this isn’t necessarily a product of an attack, but more so exploiting vulnerabilities or file dumps within the system that hackers can exploit.
One common data leak type is also known as cloud leak. A cloud leak happens when a certain cloud service, for example, Amazon Web Service S3, accidentally exposes users’ sensitive information.
What Are Hackers Looking for in Data Leaks?
Various online services hold a massive amount of sensitive information, which is always appealing to hackers. Finding such data leaks can result in a serious monetary gain if they decide to sell it on the black market. Or, they can use this information for identity theft and many other malicious intentions. This type of information is the most appealing to hackers:
- Customer information – identity, credit card information, address, usernames, passwords
- Company information – secret projects, internal communications, performance statistics, strategies
- Trade secrets – plans, formulas, secret designs, secret technology, code and software, contracts
What to Do If Your Data Has Been Leaked?
If you’ve received reports that your company has suffered a data leak or data breach, you better act fast. These incidents can not only result in massive customer distrust and dissatisfaction but also in hefty GDPR fines. Here’s what to do if your data got leaked:
1. Find Out More About the Breach
First, you need to find out as much information about the leak as possible. Identify where the leak came from and what information was exposed. Identify possible system flaws and weaknesses that have led to the data breach.
2. Change Existing Passwords
Immediately change all passwords and notify the users about the breach. Hackers could’ve gained access to company or user accounts and passwords, so you better change them before they decide to abuse them.
3. Freeze Your Credit
Regardless of whether you’re a user or a company, if your data has been breached, the chances are the hackers gained access to at least some financial information. To ensure that they won’t drain your accounts, get in touch with your bank immediately, inform them about the situation and request to have your credit cards canceled and credit frozen.
How to Protect Yourself from Hackers
Cybersecurity has become a big necessity in today’s fragile digital environment. Even if you don’t think you’ll fall victim to hackers’ exploits, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some precautionary measures you can take to ensure a data leak never happens:
1. Use Authentication Apps
If a breach happens or your information was a part of some breach that occurred in the past, the chances are that hackers know your phone number. Or, they can secretly install specialized SMS trackers to gain access to your messages and then use this information to bypass two-factor authentication and do more damage. Using authentication apps ensures that hackers can go nowhere near your other accounts.
2. Use a VPN
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a great way to protect yourself from hackers because it encrypts all user traffic and disguises their IP address so that hackers can’t gain access to your computer. There are many free VPN options out there; however, not every VPN works in every country, so make sure to double-check. For example, if you live in Canada (https://nordvpn.com/servers/canada/), do a quick Google search by typing something like ‘’VPN Canada’’ and you’ll see different licensed providers operating in your country.
3. Use Different Passwords
Using different passwords is the best way to prevent a breach, especially if your information has been exposed in another breach in the past. If you use the same email and password across all accounts and one of them gets hacked, you’re basically giving hackers a free ticket to access all your other accounts with the same password. We also recommend using a password manager to store all these passwords.
Hopefully you are not facing a situation where your data got leaked. Taking the above precautions should help to keep your personal information safe.
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