Even if you’ve done everything possible to protect your personal online information — regularly changing the password and not recycling it, not clicking on any suspicious links, never share any personal information — one or more of the companies you’ve shared that information with can be breached. So where does that leave you?
A data breach — especially if it’s one of the larger companies, such as PayPal or Target or Equifax — tends to make the news. The more reputable companies should contact you after the news has gone public, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. One of the simpler ways to find out if your personal information is at risk, go to HaveIBeenPwned.com (HIBP). Once there, you enter your email address (or addresses, if you have others) and you’ll have your answer in a few seconds.
However, even if you haven’t been “pwned” yet, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook yet. If it’s a company you do business with that’s been breached, it’s probably best to assume your information is now out there on the dark web. You can also sign up for free notifications from HIBP to alert you to any further breaches.
Change your passwords. Start with a strong password and add several unique characters, such as ? or /!!! Change your security questions. Contact the company affected and find out just how serious and widespread the breach is and if it’s likely to involve your information.
If your email address is out there for scammers, you’ll want to be even more vigilant about not responding to anything that seems suspicious, and never click on a link that asks for personal information unless you’re absolutely certain it’s from a trusted source. Even then, you should consider just going to their website instead.
Think about adopting the two-factor authentication for especially sensitive information, such as online banking or any other form of online payment. Sure, it takes a few seconds longer to log into your account, but it’s a lot better than logging into your online banking only to discover the funds have been drained.