Cybersecurity expert offers suggestions for keeping your information secure after a data leak
Yesterday, an unknown hacker group claimed to have stolen the personal information of 1 billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database. Among the 23 TB of hacked data: national identity documents, names, addresses, places of birth and telephone numbers, and even judicial information. After companies, organizations, or in this case governments get hacked, the personal data of affected people can later be sold on the dark web.
A recent study by NordVPN analyzed one of the markets on the dark web. The market has sold items totalling more than 17.3 million dollars to this day, many of which included the sensitive personal data of people affected by data leaks around the world. Among the items sold were payment card data, passport and ID scans, email batches with passwords, and even full identity sets, which included everything that criminals need to perform identity theft.
“This data breach in China is an opportunity to remind yourself of the things that can be done when a leak like this one happens. Of course, we urge people to share as little sensitive information as possible about themselves online because there is a great chance that if their data gets stolen, criminals will try to sell it on the dark web. But there are ways to reduce the consequences,” Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, says.
What to do if your personal information gets leaked
- Beware of phishing scams
The more information available about you online, the more personalized and sophisticated phishing scams can become. Phishing scams are very effective because criminals usually use a piece of real private information. So if you know that some of your personal information may be available to criminals, you should be on guard.
Daniel Markuson recommends looking out for seemingly legitimate, personalized messages from banks or other familiar organizations. Caution especially important if they ask for more personal details, fund transfers, or to click on a link.
- Get back into your account
The first important step for you to do is to log in to your account and change the password. It shouldn’t be “password” or “imthekingoftheworld.” Your password needs to be strong. Try this trick: think of a statement, for example, “I love to go for a walk every evening.” Then, turn it into 1l2g4awEVe (replacing I with 1, to with 2, for with 4, and every with EV).
If possible, use two-step authentication and get a password manager like NordPass. Most importantly, never reuse the same password for all of your accounts.
- Take care of your other accounts
If you have used the same or similar password for more than one account, change it on all other key platforms and accounts immediately. That includes your email, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Even though hackers may have gotten hold of your hashed password, there’s still a chance they can decrypt it and get the real password.
If you don’t change your passwords immediately after the leak, your online accounts can be compromised and sold on the dark web. A hacked Netflix account can be bought for 10 USD on the dark web, an Uber account for 12 USD, and a Twitter account for as little as 2 USD.
- Update your settings and available data
Review the privacy settings and data you provide on both the breached platform or company and any other major platforms you use. Be sure to only share the required information and delete what is not necessary, such as your phone number. This way, even if your account is hacked, it will be less valuable to hackers.
A common piece of advice is to share as little as possible online. If you don’t intend to get the world’s attention, change your account settings from “Public” to “Private.”
NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider, used by millions of internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption and Onion Over VPN and guarantees privacy with zero tracking. One of the key features of the product is Threat Protection, which blocks malicious websites, malware, trackers, and ads. NordVPN is very user friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, and has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide. For more information: nordvpn.com.