How to Protect Your Information and Identity Against Today’s Data Breaches

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Staying informed about the latest trends in data breaches is crucial for understanding the threats facing individuals and organizations alike as we continue to see large-scale incidents in the US in 2024.

In the first quarter of 2024 alone, major organizations that are used by many people, such as American Express and AT&T, suffered damaging breaches.  

American Express alerted customers that their credit card details may have been compromised following a third-party data breach in March 2024.

Meanwhile, AT&T confirmed that a dataset containing the details 73 million current and former customers was posted to the Dark Web in March.

This is not just an issue isolated to the US, in France for example a data breach at the nation’s employment agency could affect 43 million people.

Flashpoint’s 2024 Global Threat Intelligence Report found that the US made up the majority of global data breaches in 2023, with a 60% share of the 17 billion personal records compromised throughout the year.

Meanwhile, the Identity Theft Resource Center's (ITRC) 2023 Annual Data Breach Report found that the US witnessed a staggering 78% increase in reported data compromises compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 3205 incidents. These breaches impacted a substantial number of individuals, with the total number of victims reaching a staggering 353,027,892.

Against this backdrop of millions of individuals being impacted it is vital everyone has the tools available to protect their data online.

What to do if Your Password is Compromised

Passwords are highly valuable data points for cyber threat actors and once they have this, coupled with a username, they can access networks and further personal information.

If your password is compromised you should change it right away, and change the password of other accounts that may have been using the same password. It is always advisable to use unique passwords for each online account you have.

If you are able to, adding an additional layer of authentication like two-factor authentication (2FA) is advisable.

It is also advisable to regularly review your account activity to check for any unauthorized changes or transactions. Look for signs of suspicious behavior, such as unfamiliar login locations or unusual account settings.

If the compromised account is associated with a service provider or website, report the breach to them. Many companies have protocols in place for handling security incidents and may be able to assist you in securing your account further.

What to do if Your Credit Card is Compromised

If your credit card is compromised, it's essential to take immediate action to minimize potential damage and protect yourself from further fraud.

You should immediately contact your bank or payment provider to report the incident. They will likely ask you to fill out a fraud report or affidavit detailing the unauthorized transactions. Be prepared to provide specific details about the fraudulent charges.

If you suspect your credit card information was compromised online, change the passwords for your online accounts associated with the card.

You should continue to review your credit card statements and transaction history online to identify any unauthorized charges.

What to do if Your Identity is Compromised

Report the identity theft to your local police department or the authorities in your area, letting them know that scammers may have access to your data.

Contact your bank, credit card companies, and any other financial institutions where you have accounts. Inform them of the identity theft and request that they freeze or close affected accounts to prevent further unauthorized transactions.

Some companies offer identity theft protection services that can help monitor your credit and alert you to any suspicious activity.

Once again, you should change the passwords for your online accounts, especially those that may have been compromised.

Think Before You Download Apps

Websites are not the only online platform collecting data, every app on your mobile device needs data for functionality including your location via GPS, payment information and browsing history. They also collect device information like user ID, device ID, crash and performance data.

Shopping and food delivery apps have been found to be the most data-hungry apps, closely followed by travel apps and social media apps. Some of the least privacy-sensitive apps include Facebook, Instagram and AirBnB. Apps like TikTok, YouTube and DoorDash are also listed as data-hungry by SurfShark research.

Before you download your chosen app it is advisable to check the developer's reputation and data retention policies.

How To Prevent Email and Personal ID Breaches

Tools like SurfShark Alert can help you get immediately informed about any personal information breaches, including passwords, credit card information and identifiable information.

To prevent your information from falling into the wrong hands in the first-place, tools like Alternative ID can be useful. Alternative ID generates a brand-new online identity and an email for you to use online.

The creation of a new persona with new personal information (such as name, surname, address, an email address) keeps your true identity private.

By deploying this type of approach, your email address and name remains private from one-time-used websites, sites with vague protection practices, or brands you don’t trust.

You can minimize the possibility of getting spam emails from annoying marketing subscriptions.

It also prevents your information from falling into the hands of data brokers or other malicious actors during data breaches.

Finally, these alternative personas can protect you from online stalking.

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