When a website you use gets hacked...
… and hackers post your personal info online...
… we spot the hack and tell you how to stay safe.
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A data breach is an event in which sensitive information is exposed or compromised. Based on services or websites you’ve used in the past, your personal information is likely stored in hundreds or thousands of databases worldwide. Companies known as data brokers compile and sell personal data to other groups for use in advertising, marketing, and similar fields. While most companies strive to protect the data you trust them with, they’re not always successful.
Once your information has been leaked, it may end up for sale on the dark web, where it can be bought and used to commit identity theft. That’s when a criminal uses your personal information — your name, your financial data, personal identifiers like your social security number, and more — to impersonate you, online or off. On the internet, it generally means using data that’s been stolen from you to make accounts in your name, buy things with your money, and possibly even use your identity to try and scam others.
By requesting that data brokers remove your data from their registries, AVG BreachGuard helps to reduce the chances that your data will be compromised in the event one of these companies suffers a breach.
Your personal info exists in three main areas that may compromise your privacy:
These include the dark web, which is where hackers can sell the information they’ve stolen, as well as buy information like credit card numbers from other hackers, putting you at risk of identity theft.
These consist of third-party data brokers and advertising companies that may have collected your sensitive information without your knowledge or consent. Selling your information in these legal marketplaces is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the law, but most people consider the practice very intrusive.
Services like Facebook and Google rely on data that you have submitted to them. However, this information is often stored for longer than you may know, or is combined with additional data to form insights about you.
The dark web is a section of the deep web (parts of the internet not accessible via search engines) that can only be accessed with the anonymizing Tor browser. Despite its reputation, there is nothing intrinsically bad about the dark web — it’s just an extra-anonymous part of the internet. But that extra anonymity does enable people to do some bad stuff, such as hackers buying and selling personal data that may have been collected illegally in a data breach. Note that data brokers don’t operate on the dark web.
A data broker is a company that collects and sells personal information. Generally, they use high-tech methods to track your behavior on websites and applications, and combine that info with profiles they buy about you from other corporations. This can include information about your finances, health, and identifying data such as your address and information about your online activities. Spooky? You bet. Data brokers are everywhere these days (there are thousands of them), as data brokering is a multi-billion dollar industry.
It’s not easy. Third-party data brokers and other companies create highly detailed profiles about you based on your web browsing habits and even offline information like in-store credit card purchases. Worse, these companies sell and share this information with other businesses for profit. To remove your info from the internet, you would have to request that each individual data broker do so. They’re legally obligated to comply, but it’s a time-consuming and complicated process.
Services like Facebook, Google, and others generally permit you to remove your information or enhance your privacy settings, but it can be difficult to find and properly use these features. Unfortunately, if your information is being sold on the dark web, it’s nearly impossible to remove it. This is why preventative security measures are crucial.
AVG BreachGuard protects your data against breaches by requesting that data brokers remove your personal information from their databases. When fewer companies are storing your data, your chances of being compromised in a breach are lower. Otherwise, there’s very little you can do to prevent a data breach, as you have no control over how securely any given company will store your data.
Data encryption apps and services can keep your data safe on your end and reduce your risk of identity theft. AVG’s Sensitive Data Shield, included with AVG AntiVirus FREE, protects files on your home PC to ensure hackers can’t take your data straight from the source.
Otherwise, be selective when signing up for new services and accounts. Consider limiting yourself, where possible, to companies that have a good history of being safe, or have noteworthy security.
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