Having your data leaked can be a traumatic event. No one wants to even think about having their banking information or credit card details in the hands of a cyber criminal. Although the experience isn’t fun, it is very important that you take action quickly when a data breach occurs. Here are some steps that you should take as soon as you discover your personal information has been compromised.
Step One – Find Out What Data Was Stolen
The first thing that you are going to want to do is find out exactly what data was stolen. The company that suffered the data breach will usually email all its affected customers with vital information They will list all the data that could have been compromised. In other cases you may have to do a little digging, especially if the data theft happened on your own computer.
Information that is stolen by data thieves can be broken down into two categories, the least sensitive and the most sensitive. The least sensitive forms of data are street addresses and phone numbers. Names are also in this category. The fact is that this information can usually be obtained with an Internet search by anyone. There is no reason for data thieves to concern themselves with this type of information.
What the hackers are really after is the most sensitive data. This would include banking account numbers, credit card details, and social security numbers. A cyber criminal can cause a lot of harm with this information in their pocket. Account passwords can also fall into this category. They are valuable to a hacker because many people use the same passwords for all of their accounts. When the hacker gets this password they can then get to your email, social media accounts, and even online banking.
Step Two – Immediately Change Passwords
Your next step should be to secure your accounts by changing the password on all of them. As stated above it is the best practice to use different passwords for all of your websites. You can keep track of them with a password manager, and many of these apps will also help you create strong passwords that are hard to break.
It should go without saying that your passwords should be unique. They should not be your birthday, common sequences of numbers, or frequently used words. Believe it or not some people actually use the word PASSWORD as their password. You don’t want to make it easy for the thieves to strike again.
A routine should be established where you change your passwords every six months or so. Stick to this routine and note the date that changes take place.
Step Three – Contact Your Bank and Credit Card Companies
As soon as you determine that your banking details and credit card numbers have been stolen, it is time to contact your financial institutions. Do not delay in reporting that your cards and accounts have been compromised. Request new credit and or debit cards, and change your bank account number if this is possible.
This is a major hassle that will cause you some grief for a few days while you wait for new cards to arrive. You must deal with this and wait it out because using the same cards that have been leaked in a data breach is only going to bring you suffering in the future. By reporting these accounts as compromised you will immediately shut down the thief who obtained them.
If you use a financial payment provider like PayPal, notify them as well. They will help you secure your account. They may put a hold on any payments you receive or send for a few days, but this is standard.
Moving Forward After Your Data is Stolen
At some point after a data theft you have to start living again. If it ever happens to you feelings of apprehension about using the Internet will be present. You might not even want to go online for awhile. That’s all okay. Give yourself time to recover and process what has happened.
Once you have gotten back into your routines and things are back to normal you might find that data theft has changed the way you feel about your privacy and security. You may want to improve security when you browse online or even when you just view certain websites. The shopping sites you use are all secured, but information that you enter on random websites could be exposed to hackers.
A VPN is a good way to improve your overall online privacy and security. It is an affordable way to make sure the data you are sending from your computer is encrypted and difficult for data thieves to steal. A VPN can also be useful if you find yourself traveling to other countries on a regular basis. It will help you access web services that may be restricted in some parts of the world. Such as in UAE, China, Qatar, Oman.
VPNs aren’t the only solution, but they are a good start if you want to be safer online.