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Here’s a 2min Check to See if You've Already Been Hacked…

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It is unfortunate that failings in security within the companies we use every day, often household names, enable cyber crooks to commit crimes like fraud and identity theft against us. These kinds of company breaches are happening all the time and some are on a colossal scale. Instagram in 2017 got hacked and lost 6 million records containing personal information of their users. Even more worryingly, Equifax who is one of the three credit reference agencies, had 143 million US customers’ data stolen in early 2018. Adult Friend Finder had 412 million stolen in 2016, DailyMotion 85.2 million, Ebay 145 million, Sony 77 million, Target Stores 500 million, the list goes on. Even Uber, one of the most innovative and leading technology firms in the world got hacked and despite foolishly paying $100,000 to the hackers to not leak the data, it still got leaked, compromising 57 million customer records.

These are only the data breaches that companies know about and have publicly confessed to!

Many industries don’t require data breaches to be formally disclosed and most companies quite frankly don’t have the monitoring and detective capabilities to even know when they have been breached. I know – I’ve worked in them. Symantec in their latest Internet Security Threat Report, suggest it is now an accepted practice for businesses not to disclose breaches at all. They report that whilst the number of disclosed breaches increased last year by 23%, the number of those undisclosed rose even more by 85%! This situation should be helped by the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect for all European countries (including a Brexit Britain) on 25th May 2018.Unfortunately, despite everything that we can do ourselves, in order to live our lives, we need to entrust our sensitive data to companies and they do unfortunately mishandle it.

What can we do when other people lose our data?

To protect ourselves, we need to answer two questions;

1. How do we know when our information has been compromised?

2. What do we do when it has?

Question 1: How do we know when our information has been compromised?

  • Data Breach Monitoring – setup a free monitoring alert with haveibeenpwned.com or breachalarm.com to get alerts of when your email address is identified as being part of a breach. I’d also recommend you navigate to www.haveibeenpwned.com right now and check yours and your loved ones’ email addresses to see if they have already been hacked.
  • Credit Report Monitoring (optional) – those who have already fallen victim of cybercrime or had their personal data disclosed should consider an extra level of protection called credit report monitoring. This is a fraud alert service that will actively monitor your credit report on your behalf and notify you of any unusual or unauthorised activity. This should include your children from the moment they are born unfortunately too. Experian provides an all in one credit monitoring and ID theft protection solution that is affordable. Prices vary but range between £20/month to £20/year. Shop around and find the best deal for you.

Top Tip: some ‘experts’ mandate we all should be putting ‘fraud locks’ or ‘freezes’ on our credit files so our credit cannot be used without our express permission each time. However, this can put up unnecessary hurdles when applying for things like credit cards, setting up your gas/electric, phone contracts, etc. which can be a real hassle. Others advise that we completely change our bank accounts if we are a victim of fraud which is bad advice. Banks can often provide better counter-fraud monitoring if you keep your original account.

Some also suggest that we setup a google alert for your name or email address but in my experience, this floods you with false positives and can be a pain. With the credit and breach monitoring suggested above, we’ll have enough protection. They’ll run on autopilot enabling you to just set it up and forget! Just the way we like it.

Question 2: What do we do when it is compromised?

Symptom: You’ve subscribed to a breach notification service like breachalarm.com (which I strongly recommend) and you’ve received notification that your personal details have been compromised.
Steps to Fix:

1. Don’t Panic! You’ve already been notified that your details have been breached so you are already better off than 99% of the general public! Now we know, we can focus on fixing it!

2. Change Passphrases: change all your passphrases. Due to the way online accounts are linked nowadays and the fact most people use the same passphrase for everything, it’s best to reset everything you use on a regular basis, not just the passphrase associated with the breached email address. Many decent password managers have a feature to allow you to change all passphrases very quickly – this is why I like password managers so much!

3. Check for Malicious Activity: if you’re super unlucky, you may have already been compromised. Perform the following;

Run anti-virus scans on your devices to ensure nothing has been silently loaded onto your devices (see section ‘Viruses & Malware’ for detailed steps).

  • Check your sent emails to see if any emails have gone out from your email accounts. Check your Deleted Items too as the hacker may have already deleted them from your sent items!
  • Check your email settings to ensure that emails aren’t automatically being forwarded to another email address. Google your mail application for how to do this for your specific mail program.
  • Check bank accounts for unauthorised transactions.

If you do get hacked, you can use the ‘SOS Centre’ we have at www.simplecyberlife.com to help diagnose your issue and then follow video tutorials to learn what you need to do to recover your data / accounts! Check out the SOS Centre here.

How easy was that? If you’ve followed the steps above not only have you put things in place to detect when your personal data gets hacked or lost by another company, but you’ve also got a step-by-step instructions on what to do when they inevitably do get breached!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact!

2 thoughts on “Here’s a 2min Check to See if You've Already Been Hacked…

  1. Thank you for your valuable information! MUCH needed and appreciated!

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