Data breach 101: How you can stay safe online

Data breach 101: How you can stay safe online

Emily Chioconi by Emily Chioconi on

If you feel like you can’t go a week without hearing about yet another data breach on the news, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. Data breaches are on the rise, and massive organizations like Solar Winds and Facebook aren’t the only ones vulnerable to attack.

From businesses to individuals, data breaches can affect anyone. For example, small and medium sized-businesses are now targeted by 70% of cyber attacks, and 58% of breaches involve personal data.

It might seem like a battle you just can’t win, but there are ways to minimize your risk and stay secure online. We’ll walk you through a simple data breach definition, how to protect yourself from a data breach, hacking and social engineering attacks, and what you need to do if your data is ever compromised.

What is hacking?

People often confuse the words “hack” and “breach” or use them interchangeably. So before we go any further, let’s quickly clarify what they mean. Hacking is when someone, sometimes called a “black hat hacker,” aims to compromise a digital device and gain unauthorized access to the sensitive information stored on it. This might sound pretty straightforward, but there’s a bit more to it.

While hacking refers to specific techniques like brute-force attacks, which rely on trial-and-error to crack someone’s password, many people use “hacking” informally to describe a wide range of cybercrime. Hacking can often be used as a vague and broad term that, in reality, ends up encompassing several different types of scenarios and vulnerabilities you want to be aware of.

What is a data breach?

A data breach is what happens as a result of hacking – someone with malicious intent has gained access to sensitive data, such as financial information or social security numbers. This data may be sold on the dark web, held under ransom for payment, or leaked to the public. The cause of the breach can vary widely, so it’s important to understand the several types of vulnerabilities that hackers will try to exploit.

Common types of data breaches

In order to protect yourself or your business, it’s crucial to understand the different types of data breaches. If you know what to look out for, you can take precautions and minimize your risk.

  • Password attacks. Stolen passwords are one of the most common types of data breaches. Using easy, guessable passwords leaves you vulnerable to a brute-force attack, a trial-and-error hacking method used to guess your password. If you reuse passwords, many cybercriminals will also use previous breaches to gain access to your other accounts.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is a type of software that blocks access to files and data until a ransom is paid to the attacker(s).
  • Malware. Malware is malicious software or viruses that can be sent to your device to exploit data, software, and hardware.
  • Keystrokes. Keyloggers are a type of malware that attackers use to record what you type, like passwords and credit card numbers.
  • Phishing. Phishing is a social engineering attack that involves sending fraudulent communications, usually emails or text messages, to trick the recipient into sharing sensitive data or information.
  • Pretexting. Pretexting is another type of social engineering attack where a hacker will create a situation or pretext, like pretending to be a customer service rep from your bank, in order to trick the victim into sharing sensitive information.
  • Physical exposure. This can range from losing your phone or laptop to writing down your passwords on a piece of paper that can be stolen.

Armed with this knowledge, you can now work towards prevention and preparation in the event of an incident.

What to do when your data has been breached

When there’s news of a data breach, it’s important to secure yourself or your business and change any affected credentials immediately. Not sure where to begin, or what you should be doing first?

For individuals, we’ve got a step-by-step guide that explains what to do the moment you get a data breach notification in 1Password, from how to change your password to taking advantage of Watchtower.

For businesses, check out our guide ‘How to avoid a data breach’ to minimize your risk and become a security-first organization.

How a password manager can help

The reality is, data breaches occur – there’s always a chance that someone will find a vulnerability in your system or use social engineering to gain access to something valuable. It could even lead to identity theft. That’s why preparing for the possibility of a data breach with the help of a password manager is your safest bet.

At home or in the office, a good password manager does more than create strong, unique passwords – it also helps you respond to data breaches. 1Password Watchtower alerts you to security problems with the websites you use so you can keep all your accounts safe. It lets you know where you can enable two-factor authentication, notifies you if any of your passwords have appeared in a data breach, and alerts you to weak or reused passwords.

If you’re a 1Password Teams or 1Password Business customer, you can also use Domain Breach Reports to see whether anyone with a company email address has been affected by a known data breach.

Whatever your needs, with 1Password, staying secure online has never been easier.

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Content Marketing Manager

Emily Chioconi - Content Marketing Manager Emily Chioconi - Content Marketing Manager

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