Data breaches have unfortunately become a common problem as more data is stored or shared in drives and other hackable services. There have been numerous high-profile data hacks over the years from retail companies to government agencies to credit reporting agencies. These attacks impact consumers and corporations throughout the world and cause millions of dollars in damage.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach occurs when a bad actor utilizes a tactic to obtain sensitive information located at a company, organization, or even with an individual. The entity takes advantage of vulnerabilities in a person or company’s cyber-defense to obtain sensitive data. Hackers will attempt to exploit weak passwords or general vulnerabilities in a system as a means of installing malware onto a person’s private computer or into a company’s general system.
Malware is a vicious software that compromises one’s data or the information that a company is storing. Cybercriminals use it mostly to extract information from computers. There are ways that individuals can inadvertently download malware onto their computer by being careless when searching the web. By clicking on a compromised website or one designed to attract unsuspecting users, a person could unintentionally download malicious software. It can happen if they click on a link sent by a suspicious email address, although sometimes hackers will use addresses found in a personal address book. They can hack a friend’s account and send similar phishing emails to every contact in that person’s address book.
What Should I Do If My Data was Compromised?
The first thing to do if data has been hacked is to confirm the data breach. Many hackers will claim someone has been hacked, when, they are trying to obtain personal information. Do not provide personal information to solicitors. Reach out to the company directly to determine the status of any data.
The next step is to assess the damage. Find out what type of data might have been compromised. The reason why determining that is so important is because some information is easier to secure than others. For instance, if a credit card number was stolen, a consumer can notify the credit card company, freeze the account, and obtain a new card. However, if one’s social security number was the target of a hack, repairs will be much more significant.
Should I Work with the Impacted Company?
This is completely up to the consumer. When a consumer learns that their information might be compromised, they should work with that company. It is understandable that the level of trust might be diminished, but a consumer can decide whether to continue conducting business with them. For now, many companies have plans in place to handle data theft. They might offer to help secure data from future attacks or provide some leniency on outstanding bills. In utilizing whatever tools the impacted company makes available to minimize the potential damage from this crisis, a consumer should carefully review their terms and consider whether they are giving up any rights, including the right to sue the company in court.
What are the Different Types of Data Breaches?
There are various types of data breaches that target different industries and garner their own unique responses and actions. In each case, the type of data compromised could be different and require a consumer to reach out to specific offices; however, the general plan of how to deal with the data hack is similar. Always reach out to the impacted entity and accept whatever help or assistance they offer. The different types of data breaches include:
Health Care Data Breach
In this type of a data breach, hackers will steal information from a hospital or medical facility pertaining to a patient’s medical information. They can use it to commit medical fraud, which can have a negative impact on the consumer. Victims should remain vigilant about future medical charges. Request copies of bills from doctors and other medical facilities that were visited, as well as one’s Health Savings Account to determine any fraud charges.
Financial Data Breach
This is the most common data breach and consists of stealing financial information, such as credit card data. In those instances, victims should reach out to the credit card company to immediately cancel their card. They should also reach out to any other financial institution they work with, such as a bank or a credit union, to ensure that their information is also protected. Look at any updated credit reports as well to verify there are no unaccounted charges.
Government Data Breach
This is a more dangerous breach as it entails the theft of one’s identity, such as the compromise of a person’s social security number, which could have adverse impacts on several other finances, including credit checks and employment. When this occurs, there are several federal government agencies to reach out to, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and, in some cases, the Department of Justice.
Education Data Breach
This type of breach has been on the rise lately as hackers have been targeting colleges and universities, who maintain sensitive information about their student body. In addition, many students are more comfortable conducting most of their lives online. It makes them particularly susceptible to an online attack. In response, its best to reach out to the university directly to find out what happened and what information was compromised.
Entertainment Data Breach
Those who frequently play video games online sign up with an account that includes their name and credit card number. With such information, it becomes obvious why a hacker would target those accounts. Reaching out to the impacted company is a good first step, followed by reaching out to other financial institutions and credit agencies.
What Steps can I Take to Protect Myself?
Even if a consumer has not been victimized by a data hack, it is important to always secure one’s personal information. There are several steps a consumer can take, such as creating a unique password for each account to maintain sensitive data. Make sure all passwords are strong and do not rely on personal information. Updating other secured information is wise, such as security questions. While it may seem like there are a lot of passwords to remember, password management services help a consumer keep track of them all.
Also, consumers can regularly check their credit report with national credit reporting agencies, such as Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, free of charge, once every 12 months. The recent inquiries, which are requests for credit, and open accounts listed on these credit reports can often be the first sign that one’s compromised information was used improperly by others.
Philadelphia Consumer Rights Lawyers at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. Help Victims Impacted by Data Breaches
Victims should take proactive steps to protect their information. Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. has helped clients report false charges on their credit reports for various reasons and restore their credit scores. If you were the victim of a data breach or identify theft, contact a Philadelphia consumer rights lawyer today. For a free consultation, call us at 215-735-8600 or visit www.consumerlawfirm.com. Located in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, we serve clients nationwide.