How Did My Password End Up in a Data Breach?

Data Breach graphic

Most of us will have experienced a data breach at one point or another. Maybe you’ve received an email from LifeLock telling you that one of your passwords has been compromised. Or you’ve logged into an app on your iPhone and received a warning that your password has appeared in a data breach.

It can be worrying to receive these notifications. You’ll likely wonder how your password ended up in a breach and why. More importantly, you’ll want to know how you can fix the issue as quickly as possible. 

Below, we’ll explore how data breaches happen and how you can best protect yourself in the event of a worst-case scenario. 

How Data Breaches Occur

According to research, there are over 15 billion stolen passwords on the Dark Web. The Dark Web is like the criminal underworld of the internet. It’s where criminals go to buy illegal things like drugs and weapons. It’s also where cybercriminals purchase malware and stolen sensitive data – information like passwords, emails and even financial records. 

So, how does this information end up on the Dark Web in the first place? Well, in today’s digital world, data breaches have unfortunately become commonplace. Even though many businesses do their best to protect customer data, it takes just one error or mishap to let a cybercriminal into their systems.

When this happens, cybercriminals tend to steal the most lucrative thing they can: sensitive, personal data. Data has its own currency today. Criminals mainly use this data to commit fraud and con people – and companies – out of money. 

What Does a Stolen Password Notification Mean?

When you receive a stolen password notification, this means that one of your logins has shown up on the Dark Web. One of the companies you have an account with was likely breached. Sometimes, an organization will alert you to a data breach via email or text. However, occasionally, cybercriminals are able to steal data without an organization being any the wiser – which is why identity theft protection services can give you peace of mind.

Another way to check if your data is for sale on the Dark Web is to use the website Have I Been Pwned. Simply type your email address into the website, and it will let you know if your details have appeared in a data breach. 

What Should I Do If My Password Has Appeared on the Dark Web? 

Depending on the type of account that has been compromised, there are a few things that you should do. First, change your password for the account as quickly as possible. Second, log in to your financial accounts and check that everything is as it should be. 

If anything looks suspicious, then get in touch with your bank immediately. Even if nothing seems out of the ordinary, we recommend keeping an eye on your account for a few days after the breach notification. 

These steps will help to reduce the immediate impact of a data breach. There are also other things you can do that will help to prevent disruption from future data breaches: 

  • Use two-factor authentication: One of the easiest ways to improve your personal security is to enable two-factor authentication on your email and bank accounts. This uses a verification step in addition to your username and password – a one-time passcode sent to your email, text message or authentication app – to allow you to access your accounts. Two-factor authentication provides extra protection even if a hacker knows your password, they won’t be able to get into your accounts. 
  • Use a password system and/or password manager: You should have a unique password for every account you use. This way, if one of your accounts is breached, the others aren’t vulnerable. We know that remembering lots of passwords is near impossible. This is why we recommend you use a password system and/or password manager to simplify the process.
  • Monitor your credit: You should regularly check your credit to ensure that nothing looks out of the ordinary. It’s rare but, sometimes, data breach notifications come too little too late. So, it’s best to be proactive and regularly check your bank statements for evidence of identity theft. Keep an eye out for things like anomalous payments, payments made at odd times and withdrawals that look unfamiliar. 

Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

If you are worried about the security of your personal data or want help implementing more robust password controls, we’re here to help. Contact us today.