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Monitoring services have become a fundamental element in modern cyber security. Oftentimes, these services are bundled into premium antivirus software, and they play a crucial role in keeping your personal data safe.

Data breaches happen all of the time, but companies have up to 90 days to notify you after they discover one. During that time, your unprotected information—like exposed credentials or identifying information—could be used by other bad actors to conduct extensive damage.

In the event that any of your information is exposed online because it was part of a breach or personal attack, monitoring services will notify you faster, allowing you to act immediately. If that happens, here's what you need to do to minimize any impact.

What to do if your privacy is breached

If a company told you that your information may have been part of a data breach, that information may or may not already be on the dark web or in for-profit databases ran by hackers. It's important that you ask them when the breach occurred so you know how long your information may have been out there.

The longer your information is exposed, the more opportunities cyber criminals have to use it to their advantage, and the more steps you should take to check your existing accounts and protect your most private information.

Figure out what data was breached

Sometimes, companies do not reveal exactly who had their information stolen or what was lost. However, just because they did not guarantee that your information was part of the breach, it doesn't mean you shouldn't act. If you received a notification that your information may have been exposed, they should tell you what type of information that includes, like:

  • Email
  • Password
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Address
  • Credit Card Information
  • Social Security Number

You should work in order of priority based on what information was exposed.

Update any exposed credentials

If your email or password may have been exposed, whether in combination or individually, you should update your credentials right away. If you have reused your password on multiple sites in the past, now is a good time to update your logins and follow good password hygiene.

Creating a special formula for each of your accounts and trying to remember all of them is quite an outdated way to secure your accounts, therefore, we do not recommend it. Nevertheless, we always advice users to use password manager.

Keep an eye on your accounts

Hackers have grown very advanced in their methods. One set of exposed credentials will be checked across a number of websites as they try to gain access to social media pages and memberships. Once they do that, they could gain access to profile information that reveals even more about you, like emails, phone numbers, and addresses.

By slowly gaining access to more personal information, hackers may be able to get into your most important accounts, like your banking website, allowing them to cause extensive damage. This is why you need to keep a close eye on your accounts following any data breach, even if "only" your password was leaked.

Protect your financial privacy

If payment information was leaked as part of a data breach, you should ask your card provider to lock or pause your cards right away and send you a replacement. By locking the cards, you prevent new purchases from occurring with the leaked card number, and the replacement card will have a new number assigned to it.

Even if your payment information is safe, it's a good idea to set up credit monitoring. This will alert you when there are any changes to your credit report, like if someone applies for new credit in your name. Also, if you think your address, SSN, or other private information may have been breached, you should order a free copy of your credit report and comb through it—ideally, you'll do this every 6-12 months anyway.

Advice for preventing a privacy breach

Data breaches have unfortunately become somewhat commonplace. So much of our personal information is stored and shared online, often with companies that we know little about. Next time you're shopping around or thinking about signing up for a new website, you should think twice about reusing a password or sharing your most private information.

Cyber criminals have grown very advanced, and with just a little information about you, they could potentially escalate their access until they have very private, powerful data, like your bank account information or social security number. Plus, company data breaches are not the only way that this information ends up exposed.

Taking proactive steps to protect your personal information is essential in the modern era, and this means setting up a combination of monitoring services and antivirus software so that your devices, network, and accounts have an extra layer of security against hackers.

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Further reading

What To Do If Your Personal Privacy is Breached

Monitoring your privacy is key. Find out what to do if your personal data has been breached.
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