If you are wondering how hackers found the virtual keys to your Facebook and financial accounts, security experts claim that one of the answers to that question lies in data breaches.
âI am a security person. My information has been disclosed in almost 20 data breaches, by my estimate, âsaid Christopher Budd, director of threat communications for Avast Antivirus.
Budd says hackers can buy login data for next to nothing.
âThere are so many of them that cybercriminals can go out, pay pennies per registration – literally – and get information they can use to turn around and connect,â says Budd.
And that’s what makes the Attorney General’s 2021 data breach report so alarming.
This year, companies reported 280 data breaches. It is against 60 last year.
And those companies sent 6.3 million notifications to consumers in Washington, up nearly 500% from 2020.
“Now we know what that scale is,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. âAnd it’s not just a red flag, Jesse. It’s a megaphone telling the whole state that we have a big, big problem.
Businesses that have experienced data breaches affecting more than 500 Washington consumers should notify the GA’s office and consumers.
Another problem: ransomware. 150 cases have been reported this year, which is more than the past five years combined.
âWhether you’re a business shutting down because someone got all your information and asks you a lot of money before they give it back to you, or you’re an individual at home, it’s stressful,â explains Ferguson. “It is very difficult financially and it puts all your personal information at risk.”
Some of these victims were from the Accellion breach. It was the file-sharing company that came under attack while storing the personal information of more than one million residents for the state auditor’s office.
Exposed in this breach: names, social security numbers, dates of birth, bank account numbers, addresses and emails.
The question is: will it ever stop?
âNo time anytime soon, I’m afraid. And it’s not okay because it’s profitable, âsays Budd.
And as long as it’s making money, consumers need to coordinate their own data defense.
Use a password manager
You should have separate – and secure – passwords for each online account you have. Yes, that means Amazon should be different from Facebook which should be different from TikTok and Walmart or any other online retailer.
Christopher Budd recommends LastPass and 1Password.
Use multi-factor authentication
As the report above indicates, it is only a matter of time before your personal data is exposed. It is therefore important to make it difficult for hackers. Multi-factor authentication adds another layer of protection by taking you through another step after entering your password, such as receiving an SMS with a security code sent to your phone.
You can also use an app. Security experts say it’s safer as some crooks will go so far as to âswap SIM cardsâ to take control of your phone.
The Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator apps are Christopher Budd’s choices.
Keep your devices safe
Run security software. There are some free vouchers (Avast and Bitdefender) and many new devices come with their own versions already installed.
Keeping operating systems up to date will also ensure that there are no security holes that need to be plugged.
Don’t be an easy target for phishing
Phishing is when someone sends a text, email, or other online communication trying to get you to give personal information or click on a link that installs malware.
You have to know the signs. And beware of links and attachments. The default should be to not click or download anything unless you know exactly where it came from. Even then, it never hurts to pick up the phone to check if someone you trust is sending something unexpected.
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