Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

Data breach? Here's what you should do immediately

Millions of people a year are impacted by data breaches. Here is what you should do the next time you receive a letter that you were affected.

Data breach? Here's what you should do immediately

The number of victims impacted by data breaches has skyrocketed into the hundreds of millions, even though the latest data shows slightly fewer data breaches occurred last year compared to 2021.

Data breaches continue in 2023 as T-Mobile announced a data breach in January impacting 37 million accounts.

The U.S. Marshals Service, meantime, reported a "major" security breach in February.

Lilly Morrow panics at every alert she gets about breaches.

"I think my personal information is going to get stolen," she said.

Sariah Lattimore said it's so frustrating.

"I think they need to do better," she said, saying she is tired of getting breach notices from banks, credit cards, and health care companies.

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Pete Nicoletti of Check Point security software has responded to hundreds of incidents as a field chief information security officer. He said data breaches occur when hackers find vulnerabilities in a company's network.

Often information is stolen and held using ransomware until a company pays.

In other cases, he says, "It's stolen and there's no ransomware because it's valuable in itself."

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 1,802 data breaches in the U.S. in 2022, just 60 short of the all-time high set in 2021.

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If you receive one of those dreaded letters in the mail informing you of a breach, we wanted to know what you can do immediately after a breach to keep your information safe.

Nicoletti says:

- Confirm that it is real by doing an online search about the breach

- Be extra cautious about phishing emails that may follow

- Take advantage of free services offered by the company, such as a year of free credit monitoring

Nicoletti also suggests the site, where you can see if your emails or phone numbers were compromised.

"What that tells you is don't reuse that password," he said.

Most important: Change passwords after a breach and be sure to set a unique password for every account.

His last tip: Always pay close attention to what you click, so you don't waste your money.