What is a data leak?
A data leak is when your personal information, like passwords or photos, is publicly exposed to third parties. It is important to note that a data leak is not necessarily a data breach. While data breaches occur due to cyberattacks, data leaks are related to harmful links you click on without suspecting anything dangerous.
A data leak is a severe data security concern because once your personal information falls into the wrong hands, cybercriminals can use it to carry out fraudulent activities, identity theft, or financial crimes.
Why did you receive a data leak notification on your Apple device?
Suppose you receive a data leak notification from iCloud Keychain (a service that securely stores passwords and payment information across your Apple devices). In that case, your sensitive data is exposed to unauthorized entities.
Apple has a password monitoring feature that monitors a list of compromised data and compares them to your login credentials. If this tool finds your passwords on the list, it immediately alerts you so you can take action.
NordVPN also has a cybersecurity feature called Dark Web Monitor. It is designed to scan dark-web sites and forums for your credentials and immediately alert you if your personal information lands on a dark web. If your data has been compromised, you can change your passwords and turn on multi-factor authentication to avoid more data leaks.
How to view which data and passwords have been leaked
Here’s how to find out which of your private data is exposed online:
- Click on “Settings.”
- Tap on “Passwords” from the menu.
- Open the “Security recommendations” page.
- Turn on the switch button next to “Detect compromised passwords.”
Now you’ll see various types of recommendations. High priority recommendations will show you passwords that may be the most vulnerable, while other recommendations will show you reused and weak passwords that you should change to enhance your online account security.
How to change compromised passwords
If your iPhone or iPad has detected weak account passwords, follow these steps to change them:
- Go to “Settings.”
- Tap on “Passwords” again.
- Select “Security recommendations.”
- Poorly protected accounts will appear on the screen. Choose the account you want to change a password for and tap “Change password on website.”
Change your leaked passwords as soon as you detect they have been exposed to third parties. You can choose a strong password generated by your iOS device or develop your own unique and complex password combination.
How to manage your saved passwords
For even more data security, use a password manager. This cybersecurity tool can help you create complex and unique passwords for your online accounts. It also stores your sensitive credentials under lock and key and automatically fills the password fields when you log in to accounts, reducing the number of passwords you need to remember.
A password manager stores your passwords in encrypted digital storage, which protects them from prying eyes. To access this storage, all you need is a single master password, which you should never share with anyone. A password manager is a way to ease your cyber routine, allowing you to log in to your accounts with a click.
How to protect your data from being leaked
Protecting your digital assets requires some technical knowledge and good cyber hygiene habits. Here are some tips to help prevent iPhone data leaks:
Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA)
2FA and MFA are security measures created to add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. They protect your accounts even if your saved passwords end up leaked, making it harder for hackers to gain unauthorized access.
2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring two of the below:
- Something you know, like a password.
- Something you have, like a phone or a security token.
- Something you are, like your fingerprints or face recognition.
MFA works similarly to 2FA but requires two or more authentication methods from the above mentioned. For example, logging in to an account may require a password, fingerprint, and facial recognition. So even if the attacker obtains your password, they cannot access an account without the second or third authentication factor.
Create strong passwords
Creating and maintaining strong passwords is the cornerstone of your cybersecurity routine. Complex and unique passwords can shut the door on criminals trying to gain unauthorized access to your accounts by carrying out data breaches or brute force attacks. In addition, securing your accounts with strong passwords may protect you from identity theft.
Here’s how to maintain your secure passwords:
- Use special characters. Create unique and complex passwords using a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols to make it hard for hackers to access your personal or financial accounts.
- Never reuse a password. Avoid using the same password twice. If one account is compromised, others sharing the compromised credentials are at risk, too.
- Avoid using personal information. Never use personal details for a password (home address, birthday, or name of a family member, for example).
- Keep your passwords a secret. Never share your passwords with your friends, family, or online.
- Beware of phishing scams. Avoid entering your passwords into unfamiliar websites. Always ensure a URL is legitimate, especially those you receive via email or message.
- Delete unused accounts. Deleting your old accounts is a good cyber hygiene habit that helps you control the amount of information shared on the internet. The less you share online, the less likely your data will be leaked or breached.
Implement these practices into your cyber routine, significantly reducing the risk of compromise and unauthorized access.
Here are some frequently asked questions about data leaks:
Is the iPhone “compromised password” notification real?
The message is legit. If you receive such a notification, your password matches an entry on a list of compromised data. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is your password personally, it might be someone else’s password that matches yours.
Is a data leak and a data breach the same thing?
In most cases, a data leak exposes sensitive information due to human error or misconfigured system settings. A data breach, on the flip side, refers to a scenario when data is disclosed to third parties due to a cyberattack or a security barrier failure or via downloaded malware.
Even though these two terms are used interchangeably in everyday conversations, it is essential to differentiate them in legal or professional contexts.
How do data leaks happen?
Data leaks can happen due to multiple reasons. It can happen due to the misconfigured system settings (either on the user’s or the service provider’s end) or cloud services. What’s more, users can unintentionally expose their data on public platforms or fall for phishing scams.