How VPNs Can Protect You from the Next Data Leak
It’s been in the news more often than we’re comfortable with.
Hacks. Leaks. Data breaches.
Whatever you want to call it, what it essentially means is that your private information has been stolen by some third party who wants to use it for its own purposes.
The most recent mass hack occurred just recently in Louisiana, where over 290,000 drivers license records were stolen by a hacker named NSA. This hack contains personal information such as names, driving offenses, birth details, addresses, and even info about more serious crimes like murders.
Obviously, those drivers in Louisiana who’ve had their data stolen are not happy with the often flimsy security measures incorporated by city and state governments. They did nothing wrong, and yet they have to sleep knowing that their personal information is on someone’s hard drive for whatever nefarious reasons.
This hack is only the latest in an uncomfortably long line of recent hacks, leaks, and data breaches. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest hacks in recent months, starting with the most users affected.
Myspace Hack – May 2016 – 360 million users affected
In late May, 2016, Myspace discovered that a hacker named Peace had infiltrated their systems in June 2013 and stolen private information from more than 360 million user accounts. This hacker has also stolen data from VK and LinkedIn.
This may not sound like a particularly serious intrusion, especially since Myspace went from an unsuccessful social media network to unsuccessful music platform. However, the information that was stored on its servers include user login data, such as emails, usernames, passwords, and secondary passwords.
While many of us have updated our passwords since 2007, there are still many others who haven’t changed a single character. What’s scary is that many adults use the same password for most, if not all, sites, which means the hackers who got your Myspace password may have gotten into your other—more sensitive—accounts.
US Voter Database – December 2015 – 191 million affected
In late December of 2015, an independent computer researcher discovered that more than 191 million US voters’ data was accidentally exposed on the internet. The problem stemmed from an apparently incorrectly configured database.
The researcher named Vickery, from Austin, Texas, was looking for exposed information to raise awareness of data leaks. The information he found was conveniently and highly concentrated voter information such as names, addresses, party affiliation, phone numbers and emails.
VK Hack – June 2016 – 100 million users affected
On June 5, 2016, VK.com, the Russian version of Facebook, was infiltrated by a hacker named Peace. The hacker was able to download information for more than 100 million users, and the data includes their phone numbers, emails, passwords, names and location.
The site, according to Peace, had been previously breached sometime between 2011 and 2013, and the hacker claims to have another 71 million but decided against selling them.
According to LeakedSource analysis, the most popular passwords were “123456,” as well as the usual “qwerty” and “123123.”
Anthem Leak – February 2015 – 80 million affected
On February 5, 2015, Anthem, the second biggest health insurance provider in America, had 80 million of their customers and employees’ data stolen.
Fortunately, no payment information or medical details, such as claims or diagnostic codes were stolen. Unfortunately, however, what the hackers did steal is thought to be 10 times more valuable than the credit data.
This information includes Social Security numbers, birthdates, medical IDs, names, and much more sensitive information. Again, these may not seem valuable to the average reader, but for a hacker it is a gold mine that can provide unfettered access to many users’ other information.
The number one way that most of the information from these and many, many other leaks will be used is in identity theft. Remember, with your personal information, a hacker may take out loans, mortgages, other forms of credit, even phone contracts under your name, and you wouldn’t know it unless you regularly check your credit score. Most Americans only check it about once a year.
How can I protect myself?
The best way to protect yourself is to use a VPN service while you’re browsing the internet. A VPN offers you the ability to securely connect to a server in another location and have all traffic go through there, so that to any site you visit, it will seem like you are in that server’s location.
So you can check your Facebook and Twitter, work online safely, watch movies from any location, send business emails and check your personal banking account, all with the knowledge that your information is private and secure.
Personal VPN services like NordVPN’s allow you to securely connect to the internet from whichever device you choose, whenever, and wherever you are. NordVPN has unparalleled speed and security, with many servers located throughout the world and flexible pricing for your needs.
This will allow you to browse safely on the internet on your laptop, phone or tablet without having to worry that someone is spying on your or intercepting your private data.
It’s important not to underemphasize the sheer amount of hacks, leaks, and data breaches that happen almost daily. You can read about the one last month (272 million affected), the Turkish citizenship database hack a month before that (50 million affected), the IRS data leak before that (700,000), or the one that’s probably taking place right now.
Your data is private, and it’s best to remain vigilant as hackers are always eager to get it.
What do you think of the recent rash of data leaks? How do you protect yourself? Let us know in the comments below!