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Data breaches can happen at any time and no one is completely safe. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, knowing what steps to take right after the incident can make a huge difference to your safety and wellbeing.
Data breaches have become a common occurrence in recent years, driven by our increasing reliance on technology and intense use of digital gadgets. From small businesses to high-profile companies and government institutions, anyone can fall victim to a data breach at any time, and the consequences can range from financial loss to reputational damage or major legal issues.
As much as we try to maintain our personal data and information safe, we have limited control over these matters, so it’s virtually impossible to keep all risks at bay. We provide our data to financial institutions, medical providers, retailers, and other entities that just like everyone else, are exposed to cybersecurity threats. Therefore, finding out that a business or organisation that holds your personal information has suffered a data breach is not an unlikely scenario. But the question is what should you do in this situation?
As a potential victim of a data breach, it can be difficult to figure out what to do next. The shock and distress created by the news can stop you from thinking clearly. However, it’s important to act quickly in order to minimise damages and prevent further complications. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you have to take in the aftermath of a data breach. Considering that data breaches come in all shapes and sizes, these steps will vary based on your specific situation.
Check if a breach really occurred
As Data Breach Law experts explain, a data breach is a release of private and confidential information to a third party without your consent. Data breaches can be caused by a human error, a security vulnerability, or a cyberattack. Regardless of the cause, a data breach can wreak havoc on your life, leading to emotional distress, physical and material damage.
Therefore, if you receive a notification saying that your personal information has been breached, you have to take immediate action. But before you get all stressed out and start worrying about how the event will affect your life, you have to check if the data breach really occurred. There’s plenty of fake news circulating these days, so you can’t just trust anyone. In order to find out if a data breach did happen, you have to get in touch with the affected company and have them confirm the event.
Find out if your information was compromised
If the breach was real, the next thing you should do is find out if the incident has affected you as well. Just because a company holding your personal data was breached doesn’t necessarily mean your information was also exposed. You might be one of the lucky fellows that were not affected by the event. Again, the only way to find out if you are among the victims is to contact the breached company.
If you receive confirmation that you are one of the victims, you have to find out exactly what type of information was compromised. This aspect is extremely important because it will determine the appropriate course of action. Different types of data have different degrees of sensitivity. For example, having your national insurance number, date of birth, or driver’s license information stolen can lead to more damaging consequences than having your phone number or email address exposed.
Change your passwords
Having one of your accounts breached puts all your other accounts at risk. Hackers can use the information they have on you to break the passwords on all your accounts. That’s why you have to act fast and change all your passwords immediately after the incident to protect yourself from the potential side effects.
That will reduce the possibility of hackers gaining access to further sensitive information and limit the extent of the damage. Make sure your new passwords are strong and don’t have any elements in common with the old ones.
Activate transaction alerts
The last thing you want is for hackers to gain access to your bank and credit card accounts. However, you have to take this possibility into consideration following a data breach. One way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity is to activate transaction alerts for all your bank and credit card accounts.
Every time someone makes a transaction using one of your cards, you’ll receive a notification on your phone or email. That way, you can receive timely updates on your account activities and catch fraudulent transactions early on, before they can wreak havoc on your financial life.
Stay in touch with the breached company
Sometimes, the breached company will offer to provide support and guidance to its customers and help cover the damages they’ve suffered, at least partially. Most companies do that in an attempt to restore their reputation and win back customers’ trust after a data breach.
Considering they’re partly responsible for the incident, and a simple letter of apology doesn’t help much, you should accept the assistance they’re offering. Also, the breached company is in the best position to keep you informed on the data breach response plan they’ve set in place and the progress they’re making in this respect.
Contact the relevant authorities
Just because the breached company has taken immediate action and has offered to help you out, doesn’t mean you should just sit and wait patiently for things to calm down and not get actively involved. It’s up to you to take additional measures to make sure you won’t suffer any more damages related to the data breach in the future.
Depending on the type of information that was compromised, you have to contact the relevant authorities and follow the steps they recommend. This might imply placing a fraud alert on your credit reports, putting a freeze on your credit, or filing your taxes early.
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