Data Breaches - What Are They, How to Protect Yourself, and More

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To say that today's top, high-tech is complicated is an understatement at best. While there are so many ways it has made our lives easier, at the same time it can be a real hassle and a place some people are trepidatiously trying to avoid. The presence of scammers, hackers, and those who are cloning accounts on social media platforms only makes matters worse. But we shouldn't let these fears keep us from enjoying the many advantages available to consumers online.

What is a Data Breach?

Simply put and according to tech experts in online security measures, a data breach "exposes confidential, sensitive, or protected information to an unauthorized person." Furthermore,  "the files in a data breach are viewed and/or shared without permission" often to the dismay of both the victim that was attacked along with their users whose information was stolen.

Who is Being Targeted?

Data breaches can occur to a single person or large corporations although the latter is true in most cases. For example,  T-Mobile suffered yet another attack in January 2022 costing the company $350 million in monetary damages. An additional data breach in January 2023 affected 37 million customers and only discovered the former issue recently. Some notable companies and huge conglomerates that have reported these intrusions include:

  • When 2022 came to a close on December 31st, the Slack messaging app reported "suspicious activity" on their platform due to stolen employee tokens (?) but did not reveal anything in relation to the number of users affected or other specific information. 
  • On January 4th, 2023 Twitter revealed their user's data was being bought and sold on the dark web during 2022 when a bank of around 200 million Tweeters' email addresses was involved in the scam.
  • According to a letter sent to PayPal users on January 18th, 2023, "unauthorized parties" were able to access customer accounts using stolen login credentials but had "no information" about the misuse of personal information, or any "unauthorized transactions" occurring on their platform. 

On a lighter but still serious note, the popular MailChimp email platform reported smaller compromises on the same date as PayPal affecting 133 users of their accounts being shared just six months after another previous breach had already occurred at their company.

How to Avoid Being a Victim?

As it is with most types of online activity, there are many ways to protect yourself from these types of unwanted intrusions and thefts. As they say, the best defense is a good offense so remember that's important to take some basic safety measures:

USING PASSWORD PROTOCOLS: As most of us are probably already aware, utilizing stronger passwords (with numbers, special characters, upper and lower case letters helps to stop these crooks in their tracks. It's also important to change these access codes regularly. If you don't want to use password managers or apps available online, you can always resort to "old school methods" like writing them down on paper.

TAKING THE BAIT: Phishing is a common ploy with these criminals who send out unwanted texts, emails, and social media messages to reel in their victims. Don't fall for it (aka take the bait). In other words, remember that many of these huge companies as mentioned previously will NOT ask you to verify your username and/or password since they already have that information on file. 

AVOIDING SHARING PERSONAL INFORMATION: Unless it's absolutely necessary, do not, repeat DO NOT put items like your social security number when implementing this type of highly sensitive information online.  There is no need for the majority of these institutions to have your SSN on file. Nor do they need other sensitive data like 

REPORTING PROBLEMS: As an example in this case, we'll give PayPal some kudos for asking users to report any type of suspicious activity to them by addressing your concerns to or filing a complaint with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Believe it or not, this type of admission assists authorities in recognizing and shutting down these ripoff artists from continuing their practices. 

BEING EDUCATED & STAYING INFORMED: Much in the same as reading this piece, it's important to stay one step of these dirtbags by staying well-informed and being educated about their tactics. Again, knowing how they might be planning to attack will help victims stay clear of their intrusions when users are armed and ready.

BONUS: Look Up and Stay Alive

This phrase is often implemented in the construction industry to protect both employees and supervisors from unnecessary injuries or potential risks at the workplace. Think of it this way, when receiving an unwanted text or phone call it's easy to ignore these messages and look the other way. However, for some reason, frequent emails often garner more attention. but should be given the same type of disregard and attention to detail as these other methods. 

When you get an email from an unfamiliar (or even a familiar) recipient - you should always literally look up - specifically at the address line from the sender. It should be short and sweet. When you do glance above, if you see a bunch of random information for someone or thing - that's a guarantee that it's bogus. Delete and block much in the same way you would an unwanted call on your smartphone or another device.

In this last closing light, be sure to follow our Brainiac blog for more articles like this one. Feel free to contact us at any of our convenient locations if you have any direct questions, comments, or concerns. We're always here to help and look forward to hearing from you today.


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