Article written by: Zachary Amos
Data breaches are a real threat today and they impact everyone online. It’s entirely reasonable to be concerned about your data and privacy. If you’re worried your accounts have been hacked, there are tools you can use to defend yourself. A few simple steps can help you identify potential hacking incidents and secure your data.
Step 1: Check a Breach Database
The thought that your passwords or data could be compromised is unnerving, but some tools can help. Breach databases are websites where you can see all of the known hacks that might impact your data. You can use a breach database to remove the element of mystery from your privacy concerns. Once you know which accounts are most vulnerable, it’s easier to search for signs you have personally been hacked.
For example, one of the most popular breach databases is “Have I Been Pwned?”, operated by cybersecurity expert Troy Hunt. Anyone can use this site for free to check if they have been exposed to a breach. Simply type in your email and you’ll see all the known breaches that may have impacted accounts connected to that email.
If your email shows up in any breaches, stay calm — this doesn’t necessarily mean your specific account has been hacked or compromised. It simply means a website where you have an account suffered a data breach that could put your data at risk. Most reputable companies and organizations have safeguards that protect your account even in the event of a breach.
For instance, SOC 2-compliant organizations must have certain minimum security protocols. This includes encrypting data as it moves through a business’s network. Companies might also silo their data to minimize the danger of a breach, so a hacker might be able to get usernames but not passwords.
Step 2: Identify Signs of Hacking
Once you know which accounts are vulnerable, it’s time to investigate. Start by checking the official websites of any sites that show up in your breach database search. Organizations that have suffered a data breach are usually obligated to post an announcement about it. If you’re concerned, you can also contact customer service to get more information about your account.
Next, try logging into your vulnerable accounts. Look through your account data and any login history the site provides. This can reveal signs that someone else has been in your account. For instance, you might notice a login attempt from a different state or a change to your registered email. These are signs this account has definitely been compromised.
If any financial information connects to a compromised account, carefully check your bank and credit card history for any unauthorized transactions. Reach out to your bank or card provider to notify them that your financial data may be compromised. This way, they can stay alert for potential fraud and help protect your account.
Step 3: Secure Vulnerable Accounts
After you’ve identified all compromised or at-risk accounts and data, you can take steps to secure everything. You should do this for all your accounts, but prioritize those you know are at high risk.
The first step is to change your passwords. Make sure you use randomized, long and complex passwords a hacker can’t easily guess. Using one of today’s reputable password managers is a great way to secure your passwords without having to write them down. Most password managers can even create complex passwords for you.
It’s also a great idea to set up two-factor authentication where possible. This login method requires an extra identity verification step in addition to your password. For example, you might have to enter a unique code texted to your registered phone number. TFA is an excellent tool for stopping hackers even after they compromise your login credentials.
Additionally, minimize your risk factors. This includes never reusing passwords or logging in on shared or unsecured devices. It’s a good idea to understand the signs of a phishing attack, email or website, as well. Phishing is the most common tactic hackers use to steal login information directly from users and awareness is your best defense against it.
Step 4: Monitor and Update Regularly
Protecting yourself from being hacked is a continuous process, but there are tools you can use to monitor your accounts and make sure you’re up to date on any potential breaches. For example, the database “Have I Been Pwned?” also has a notification system. You can use your email to set up free notifications of data breaches that may include that email, so you know about potential vulnerabilities immediately.
Additionally, make sure you change your passwords regularly. This might seem like a hassle, but it’s a great way to negate the dangers of a data breach. After all, an old password is useless to hackers.
Protecting Yourself Online
News of significant data breaches and hacking incidents can be scary, but you can take steps to protect yourself. Information and awareness are your best defenses against hackers. Use breach databases to stay up to date on your account vulnerabilities and adopt good security hygiene. Password managers and two-factor authentication are great tools for making personal cybersecurity easy. These simple steps allow you to keep your accounts and data safe online.
This post was written by Megabite