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Cyberattacks, data breaches, and data leaks are far too common. It’s naive to think that only large companies can fall victim to cybercrime. Unfortunately, if you are reading this post, you are not immune, either.

When a user’s personal information gets leaked, this means that a data breach occurred in one of the web apps they were using. As a result, sensitive data can be stolen, compromised, and used for evil purposes by hackers. To avoid unlucky consequences and protect your data from leakages, you need to be cautious when surfing the web.

Read on to learn how to check on the security of your personal information, how to avoid data leaks, and what to do if one occurs.

How does a data breach affect you?

Following a data breach, sensitive details like your name, email, password, address, phone number, ID, and date of birth may be exposed. Once these details are known to cybercriminals, you lose control over who has access to this information and how they might use it. 

How could this incident potentially cause harm to you? Consider the following possibilities:

  • Identity theft. Your personal information may be used to open fake bank accounts or get a loan. Attackers may also use it to open fake online accounts on suspicious websites. This information can also be used to impersonate you to gain access to digital accounts.
  • Financial losses. With your critical data in their possession, cybercriminals may steal money from your credit cards, apply for insurance or medical pay-offs, and file fraudulent tax returns. Moreover, identity theft can indirectly result in cryptocurrency wallet theft when the stolen identity is exploited to gain unauthorized access to an individual’s cryptocurrency wallet or exchange account. 
  • Compromise your public name. The criminals may use your email address, usernames, and passwords to contact your friends, relatives, and colleagues via email or social media to phish for money or other personal data. The hackers could also trick you by blackmailing or other provocative acts.

It is critical that you protect your personal information online and that you also recognize a data leakage as soon as possible in order to mitigate its negative consequences and prevent criminals from impacting your online accounts.

illustration of being hacked

5 signs that you have been hacked

These situations can all signal a potential data breach and should be taken seriously.

  1. You get ransomware messages. Ransomware is a form of hacking where malicious actors encrypt your personal data or important files or steal materials from your PC. The hackers will send you a message asking for money. Unless you have a data backup, you may not be able to restore the files on your own without paying the hackers. 
  2. You notice an extra browser extension. If your browser toolbar looks different, and there is some new extension icon you do not recognize, there is a chance your data was or will soon be stolen. Remove the extension immediately. If possible, the browser should be reset to default settings. 
  3. You get frequent random pop-ups. These pop-ups may appear on seemingly legitimate websites or be generated by software installed on your PC. Do not click on the links these pop-ups contain. Instead, reset the browser to default settings and run a full antivirus scan of your computer. You could also set your browser to block all pop-ups by default.
  4. Your friends get social media messages and/or invites you never sent. Hackers may have gained access to your social media account or created a new one that looks just like yours. They use these accounts to deceive your friends and possibly hack their accounts as well. Ask your friends to report such cases right away, decline duplicate friend requests, and ignore messages from fraudulent accounts.
  5. Your credentials are in a password dump. Luckily, you can check whether your credentials or other sensitive data were compromised and now reside on the dark web using web services dedicated to documenting these data breaches. Finding your valid credentials in the dump allows you to change your passwords.

How to check if your data has been leaked

If you’re unsure if your data or app credentials have fallen into the hands of criminals, you can check this fairly easily. Here are a few helpful online resources that contain all the data that has ever leaked into the dark web as a result of data breaches:

  • Have I Been Pwned—This website was developed in response to a notable Adobe data breach, emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity awareness. The site allows users to check if their email addresses have been compromised (“pwned”) and offers a feature to set up alerts for any future incidents. The developer’s analysis of this and other similar cybersecurity breaches inspired its creation.
  • NameScan – checks whether hackers already know about you and also provides tips for making your online profile more secure.
  • Avast Hack Check – you can use this site to check if any account associated with your email was compromised and get your email monitored 24/7 for potential leaks. If there is any, the website will send an automatic alert.
  • F-secure – this website will help you check if your private information has ever leaked as a result of a data breach – free of charge.

In addition to these online tools, it’s important to note that organizations often maintain a data warehouse where they store large volumes of sensitive information. These warehouses can be prime targets for cybercriminals, so it’s vital that you stay vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect your personal data.

someone accessing a phone via passcode

What to do if your personal information has been stolen

If you find out that your online account was hacked, don’t panic. To mitigate the risks of misuse, you need to stay one step ahead of the cybercriminals. These tips will come in handy in case your personal information online is leaked.  

  1. Check credit balance. Check the balance on the credit cards that you have used for online transactions, then freeze them if money is missing. Inform the bank that there was a data breach, so they could take the necessary security measures.
  2. Secure passwords. Change all passwords that could potentially have been stolen. To avoid another leak, watch out for weak and obvious passwords (like your birth date, qwerty, or 12345). Ideally, the new password should be strong enough to withstand a brute-force attack and easy for you to remember. Strong passwords are usually not shorter than 15 characters and contain a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  3. Enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of digital security for accessing your online accounts. This way, it would be less possible for someone who stole your username and password to log in to your account as, while attempting to, they will fail to enter the security code sent to your mobile or other trusted device. Holger Sindbaek, owner of World of Card Games, emphasizes the importance of two-factor authentication for online security. He likens it to adding a second lock, enhancing protection, especially during sensitive transactions or when accessing email. This method, which involves a code sent to his phone or email, safeguards his digital identity even if his password is compromised. Sindbaek strongly recommends this practice as a crucial part of personal online security.
  4. Check for updates regarding a breached company. Remain vigilant. Look for an email from the company, as its customer service team may guide you through necessary actions, such as resetting your password or implementing additional security measures. By acting promptly, you can help fortify your digital defenses against the impact of hackers’ actions.
  5. Choose a protective service. As an ongoing preventive measure for future data breaches, consider using online identity theft protection services such as Identity Guard, LifeLock, and IdentityForce. Also consider Namecheap’s security products, such as Namecheap VPN, a virtual private network service that encrypts your internet connection and provides you with an anonymous IP address. This service enhances your online privacy and security by protecting your data from hackers, ISPs, and other third parties.

We also offer SSL Certificates that secure the connection between website visitors and your server by encrypting the data transmitted. This helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information, such as login credentials and financial details, ensuring a secure browsing experience for your users.

Following these steps will help you improve your digital security, restore your identity, and prevent future leaks of sensitive information.

A secured mobile phone

Key tips to protect your identity online

To prevent cybercriminals from accessing your personal information online, follow high standards of digital security at all times. Here are some of the proven techniques to withstand a cyberattack. 

  • Use strong passwords for all online accounts. Safeguarding your online accounts begins with employing strong and unique passwords. Refrain from using easily guessable information, such as your name, birth date, or other personal details. Craft passwords that blend letters, numbers, and symbols to create a formidable defense against unauthorized access. Implementing this practice across all your online accounts ensures an extra layer of protection, minimizing the risk of potential breaches. Remember, the more complex and distinctive your passwords are, the better shielded your digital identity becomes. 
  • Don’t leave sensitive information on social media. Your personal email, address, phone number, and ID constitute sensitive information that demands careful protection. Refrain from sharing these details on social media platforms or similar websites to mitigate the risk of it being exploited for potentially harmful activities.
  • Don’t click suspicious links. Avoid clicking on any links you didn’t specifically request, even if they come from friends or relatives. Their accounts may have fallen prey to hackers, leading to potential compromises. Caution is especially important within a corporate setting with numerous employees. A simple click on an unauthorized link can compromise a company’s systems, a costly and difficult situation to resolve. Consequently, integrating employee monitoring software adds an extra layer of protection, helping to safeguard against potential threats and fortify your overall security posture.
  • Be proactive about email spam. By choosing Namecheap’s Private Email, for instance, which includes the Jellyfish anti-spam filter, you benefit from its capability to filter 8.5 million emails daily and neutralize threats from over 1.5 million spam emails, thus safeguarding your inbox from potential attacks. Take proactive steps to safeguard your inbox by promptly reporting any unsolicited emails as spam. If you encounter messages that appear suspicious or urge you to click on dubious links, do not hesitate to mark them as spam. Also, manage multiple email accounts from one place to save time and consider unsubscribing from any emails that raise concerns. Look for an unsubscribe link which is usually located at the bottom of the email. By actively managing your email preferences, you contribute to a safer online environment and reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing attempts or other malicious activities.

Be safer online

Safeguarding your personal information in the digital realm is essential. By utilizing resources like Have I Been Pwned and implementing robust security measures such as strong passwords and two-factor authentication, you can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and protect your digital identity. 

Stay vigilant and proactive to navigate the complexities of online security and maintain control over your personal data.

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