809 Million Records Left Exposed: How Users Can Protect Their Data
It’s no secret that technological advancements and online threats are directly proportional to each other. So now more than ever, it’s imperative that users prioritize the security of their digital presence, especially in the face of advanced malware attacks and massive data leaks. Speaking of the latter — less than two months after the Collection #1 data breach exposed 773 million email addresses, it seems we have another massive data dump in our midst. Last week, researchers discovered a 150-gigabyte database containing 809 million records exposed by the email validation firm, Verification.io.
You may be wondering how Verification.io had so much data left to be exposed. Most people have heard of email marketing, but very few realize that these companies often vet user email addresses to ensure their validity. Enter Verification.io. This company serves as a way email marketing firms can outsource the extensive work involved with validating mass amounts of emails and avoid the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters. Verification.io was entrusted with a lot of data provided by email marketing firms looking to streamline their processes, creating an information-heavy database.
This unusual data trove contains tons of sensitive information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amounts, interest rates, social media accounts, and characterizations of people’s credit scores. While the data doesn’t contain Social Security Numbers or credit card information, that amount of aggregated data makes it much easier for cybercriminals to run new social engineering scams or expand their target audience. According to security researcher Troy Hunt, owner of HaveIBeenPwned, 35% of the data exposed by Verification.io is new to his database. With that said, it was the second largest data dump added in terms of email addresses to Hunt’s website, which allows users to check whether their data has been exposed or breached.
Upon discovery, the firm was made aware of the incident. And while proper security measures were taken, users can take various steps themselves to protect their information in the event of largescale data exposure. Check out the following tips:
- Be vigilant when monitoring your personal and financial data. A good way to determine whether your data has been exposed or compromised is to closely monitor your online accounts. If you see anything fishy, take extra precautions by updating your privacy settings, changing your password, or using two-factor authentication.
- Use strong, unique passwords. Make sure to use complex passwords for each of your individual accounts, and never reuse your credentials across different platforms. It’s also a good idea to update your passwords on a consistent basis to further protect your data.
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