Want to know if your email information has been leaked on the dark web? Many email addresses, and associated passwords, have been compromised in recent data breaches. A breach is an incident where data has been unintentionally exposed to the public. Criminals then often make lists of this information and place them on dark web sites for others to view in order to access your account and steal sensitive data (think: financial account information).
Use this link (listed again below) to enter your address (or any address you want to check). If you have been “p0wned” – a term meaning exposed – your first step is to change the password associated with that account.
Other important tips: Do not reuse passwords across accounts, and always use strong passwords. Get tips for creating strong passwords here.
I’m getting many questions from fellow CyberSavvy Parents out there who want to know the best recourse for protecting yourself and your credit after the massive breach announced earlier this month by Equifax.
A quick explainer if you’re not familiar with the breach I am referring to:
Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, reported earlier this month that cybercriminals had gained access to the personal information of approximately 143 million consumers. The information included social security numbers, addresses and other personal information that can be used to create credit accounts in your name and can also be sold for profit on the black market.
The answer to “what now?” is not that easy. Some experts, like Terry Cutler, a security advisor who gets into suggestions in the video below, advise that you consider freezing your credit. Freezing your credit is just what it sounds like: it puts a freeze on any new lines of credit that can be opened with your social security number. You implement the freeze and you initiate the “unfreezing” of your credit as well with a personal identification number or other type of locking key/code that you establish when you initiate the freeze.
My issue with advising millions to freeze their credit is that this is not an easy on/off process and can be a headache, as explained in this article. Is it an option? Yes. But don’t think it is a “quick fix” to your personal, sensitive information hanging out there for criminals to use.
More importantly: monitor your credit report vigilantly. This was important before Equifax became headline news, and is now even more so. If you have minor-aged children (and I assume if you’re reading this site you likely do), then check on their social security numbers too, frequently, to ensure there is no credit taken out in their names. How do you do this? Unfortunately you need to take your inquiry back to the source of our headache: the credit reporting bureaus. In addition Equifax, credit bureaus TransUnion and Experian need to be contacted to get a complete picture of what you have out there for credit lines. All three bureaus also need to be contacted if you choose to freeze your credit.
I don’t promote specific products on this site, but there is the option of enrolling in a credit monitoring service for your entire family. Google search for some options and do your homework before signing on to any service. And, no, I don’t recommend the service Equifax offered for “free” after they announced their breach. That was a public relations disaster of epic proportions and another topic for another day.
For today, my advice is what is often is: stay aware, be vigilant. Keep on top of your credit accounts, bank accounts, loans, anything you have out there. And look out for new lines you didn’t open. That includes your kids’ credit too.
These are tough times and the bad guys seem often to remain one step ahead of us when it comes to trying to take our good name, credit and money for their own nefarious purposes. But be your own cyber warrior and be tough and aware. Your best defense is always knowledge.
The National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit public-private partnership focused on cybersecurity awareness and education for all digital citizens, is launching Data Privacy Day.
On January 28th and in the surrounding weeks,several educational events and initiatives will be held on the topic of data privacy and security.
According to the folks at NCSA, Data Privacy Day is an annual international celebration designed to promote awareness about privacy and education about best privacy practices.
“In this networked world, in which we are thoroughly digitized, with our identities, locations, actions, purchases, associations, movements, and histories stored as so many bits and bytes, we have to ask – who is collecting all of this data – what are they doing with it – with whom are they sharing it?” The group says on their web site. “Most of all, individuals are asking ‘How can I protect my information from being misused?’ These are reasonable questions to ask – we should all want to know the answers.”
Check out the NCSA web site, StaySafeOnline.org, for more information and to find out about events. But even if you aren’t planning on attending anything, how about just taking some time in the coming weeks to consider your own data privacy? Or how about that of your family? With information being shared EVERYWHERE today, how can you be sure your sensitive data is protected appropriately?
Just starting the discussion among your family, your co-workers, your friends is a useful first step. And StaySafeOnline.org also has some great educational resources, too, to help you understand more about the importance of this issue.
There is a product/service being heavily promoted right now called kID Sure, a child identity protection service offered by the folks at Identity Guard.
I don’t currently use or subscribe to any of Identity Guard’s services, including kID Sure, but I have to admit I’m intrigued.
As a journalist who covers cyber crime and identity theft, and as a volunteer who lectures in my community about online dangers, I frequently note that children are very desirable targets for identity theft because they typically have a virtually untarnished credit profile that is just ripe for the picking by identity thieves.
Think about it: Your child’s social security number is a precious item for a con artist looking to take out lines of credit in another person’s name. Chances are the SS number is completely clean, so if the criminal can successfully begin to build a credit profile with it, they can use it for months to pose as your child and buy things illegally, wracking up thousands in credit debt. This usually comes to a halt once they have done enough damage with the number by defaulting on payments. At that point, the SS number is no longer considered useful and the criminal moves on and steals some other child’s SS number.
Meanwhile, your child fails to find out their identity has been comprised for years, usually only becoming aware of the fraud when they apply for college loans, lines of credit or when trying to get a job.
There are many, many things you and your child need to be doing in order to protect their identity and kID Sure seems like a good idea (again, I have not tried the service). I’d love to hear from readers who have enrolled and hear what they think of the services. According to the Identity Guard web site, the service starts at $4.99 a month. That’s about $60 a year per child.
In the video below, an Identity Guard representative describes kID Sure. And, from their web site, here is a description of the kID Sure service:
From the doctor’s office to school, camp, sports teams, dance class and more, your child’s private information exists in many places. And although those places may seem trustworthy, they may actually be leaving your kids vulnerable to identity theft.
How kID SureSM Helps Protect Your Kids
All-new, patent-pending technology scours thousands of data sources on the Web, looking for information related to your child to let you know if it may be appearing in unsecure locations.
Ongoing visibility into potential exposure of your child’s personal data
A comprehensive “Digital Footprint” report showing detected data