Often we read news of massive data breaches. Some of the largest recent breaches have affected major companies like Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo. Individual users, too, can fall victim to cybercriminals. Here’s an easy guide to checking for account breaches.
Signs of compromise
You may run across signs that could indicate an account compromise.
- Failure to log in to an account. This can happen if someone changes your password.
- An email about a password change that you did not initiate.
- Your email Sent folder includes messages that you didn’t transmit. You can check with friends and contacts whether they’ve received strange emails or spam from you.
- If your IP address log or usage log for an account lists several IP addresses from different locations, that’s a strong sign that someone else is using your account.
What to do
Even in the absence of such red flags, it’s wise to be proactive about your security. For example, here’s a popular, reliable way to investigate: Go to the Have I Been Pwned website and check your email address against hundreds of data breaches. Confirm whether your address was involved in any of them. The platform requires just a few easy steps:
- Go to https://haveibeenpwned.com/.
- Type your email address into the email address box.
- Once the search is complete, you can review the results.
Another great tool for checking the security of your accounts is Firefox Monitor. Like the above site, this platform lets you check your email address against a database of breaches. And, if you sign up for the service, it will alert you in case your information appears in a new data breach. The site works much like Have I Been Pwned — go to Firefox Monitor, type in your email address, and begin a search of the database.
If you’ve been the unfortunate victim of a data breach, you’ll need to take steps to address the issue.
- Setup a password manager, such as LastPass, if you haven’t already. This way each account can have its own unique strong password.
- Change your password. If you’re locked out of your email, contact your service provider from your alternate email address.
- Setup 2-factor authentication if possible.
- Change the passwords for any other accounts linked to the compromised email address, regardless of whether there are signs of compromise.
Securing your accounts
Data breaches are steadily increasing at an alarming rate. But we may not appreciate that, because the majority of “small incidents” affecting ordinary individuals won’t capture the media’s attention. So we have to take things in hand ourselves. Up your cybersecurity game with the following tools:
Check your accounts regularly, and practice good “cyber hygiene.” That’s the best way to keep your data safe.
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