What to do after a data breach
VANCOUVER -- Data breaches and hacks have been in the news a lot in the last year. While many of us have been working from home, cyber-criminals have been busy breaking into accounts. But there are some things you can do to regain control.
More than 150 Americans had their personal information exposed last year, including passwords, phone numbers and financial data. Two years ago, it happened to Nicholas De Leon.
He started receiving alerts that he had signed up for several credit cards.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” De Leon says. “I hadn’t signed up for any new credit cards.”
Since he hadn’t been informed of a data breach, he checked online to see where his personal information had been compromised.
“It was scary. It was stressful,” De Leon says. “And the worst part was that I was on the hook to clean up the mess.”
Sometimes, companies will contact you to let you know that you’re the victim of a data breach, but you can also do some digging online yourself. The website Have I Been Pwned will tell you if it’s your email address, phone number or password that have been compromised, says Consumer Reports’ Bree Fowler.
“If your password was compromised, change it everywhere you used it,” she says.
Though using the same password over multiple sites can be convenient, it’s not cyber-savvy. If it’s tough for you to remember more than one password, don’t: get a password manager that will do it for you. One Password creates and stores complex and unique passwords for each of your accounts.
And since cyber-criminals can use your personal information to try to log in to your accounts, use multi-factor authentication, which requires a second layer of identification to log in.
“Often, it’s a code sent to your phone,” Fowler says. “But we recommend using a form that’s more secure than that.”
Like the Google Authenticator app or a hardware security key like Yubikey.
In the U.S., if your social security number or financial information were part of a data breach, you can freeze your credit. But that’s not available in Canada; Quebec has passed legislation allowing credit freezes, but it’s not available to consumers just yet.
De Leon didn’t take any chances when his identity was stolen, and froze his credit.
“I plan to keep my credit frozen forever, because that’s the safer thing to do,” he says.
With files from Consumer Reports