Three major companies and a popular crowdfunding website joined the illustrious ranks of the hacked last week. At the forefront of media attention was mobile service provider T-Mobile who had to explain to nearly 15 million of its customers that anyone who had their credit checked while in the process of applying for T-Mobile service would now be enjoying the “benefits” a near perfect (for identity thieves) exposure of their data, including name, date of birth, social security number, addresses, phone numbers and even government-issued ID numbers. Online brokerage Scottstrade suffered a breach exposing nearly 5 million customers over a year ago that they didn’t even know about until informed by authorities investigating the matter. Rounding out the list of big names is everyone’s favorite business bad-boy, Donald Trump and his Trump Hotels business, of which seven luxury hotels appeared to have suffered a year-long breach in security that allowed thieves to siphon off guest credit and debit card data. And if that wasn’t enough, data thieves also managed to penetrate Patreon, a website used primarily by independent artists and entrepreneurs for fundraising, and exposed over 2 million users emails, passwords as well as their specific site activity.
What this means for you:
By this point, if you haven’t at least racked up two years or more of “free” identity theft protection from the numerous data breaches, you have been living the life of a true luddite and should share the secrets of your success (just not online, right?). What I’ve found among many of my clients, friends and family is that most have just furrowed their brows, shaken a symbolic fist at the faceless enemy/internet/corporation and more or less accepted this as a new fact of life. Many of them haven’t even taken advantage of the credit protection services offered as compensation for being a victim of one or more data breaches. As I’ve mentioned in the past, most Americans are now suffering a near textbook-perfect example of bad news fatigue, primarily because it seems like nothing can be done. But there are things you can do:
- Have a look at Have I Been Pwned to see if any of your email addresses show up. If they do, you should change your passwords, especially if the account that was “pwned” was associated with a password you use elsewhere.
- Sign up for any identity/credit protection services offered to you if they are still available. While they may not be able to prevent an attempt to use your identity, you are much more likely to catch it happening, and these companies can help recover from damage caused by the theft.
- Most critical online services such as banking and email offer two-factor authentication which can provide a much higher degree of security. Even though a hacker may have a password for your account, they won’t be able to access accounts protected by two-factor authentication.
- Understand what data you or your company is responsible for, and if you use vendors to process any of that data, make sure they are exercising proper diligence in securing their perimeter and your data. In the case of T-Mobile’s breach, credit-check vendor Experian was the source of the breach that will likely result in significant financial and reputation distress.