The internet is a nearly unlimited source of information, and you can access it all at the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. Most of the time, this information isn’t inherently good or bad – it’s just data. More than ever, people are finding ways to use private data for financial gain or to ruin reputations. Let’s talk about three of the biggest internet breaches from the first six months of 2016 and what to do if you’re affected. After all, knowledge, like antivirus software, is a good step to better internet security.
Before Facebook and YouTube took over, Myspace ruled social media. If you’re one of the over 360 million Myspace users with a pre-2013 account, it’s likely your forgotten username and password were part of a breach in May 2016. The breach was discovered when these usernames and passwords showed up for sale on a hacker website. While Myspace has reset all of the passwords known to have been breached, your account name is also your email address. It’s probably a good idea to change your email password and report suspicious emails to your email provider.
2. U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement
Every once in a while, data breaches are the result of stolen hardware. This was the case in February 2016 when a laptop and some hard drives were stolen from the U.S. Office of Child Support and Enforcement in Washington state. The stolen gear contained records for an estimated 2 to 5 million people.
Government records are a favorite target of cybercrime since they often contain Social Security numbers alongside names and addresses. Cybercriminals use this data to take out loans in your name and destroy your credit. Keep an eye out for loan rejection letters and suspicious credit card statements, since these can tip you off to a stolen identity. If you suspect you’re a victim, notify the police and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission as soon as possible.
The microblogging site began notifying select users to change their passwords in early June 2016. According to an official release, Twitter suspects that “the information was not obtained from a hack of Twitter’s servers,” suggesting that the usernames and passwords were stolen by password-stealing malware on users’ computers. Twitter did not disclose a specific number of users who were victims of the malware attack. If you were affected, Twitter has sent an email with instructions to help restore account access and reset your password.
Internet breaches are par for the course if you spend any time online; there’s a good chance you’ll be affected at least once in your lifetime. It’s difficult to completely hide your personal data, but you can catch problems before they get out of control by keeping up to date with the latest news on internet breaches. Try to visit sites that use enhanced HTTPS security measures and stay away from file-sharing sites that are breeding grounds for malware. You can reduce your risk by investing in the right tools, such as antivirus software, password managers and identity theft protection, to help improve internet security each time you go online.