With huge data breaches becoming more common than political scandals, it was only a matter of time before a massive collection of stolen personal information surfaced somewhere online. Well, that day has come, as an 87 GB data dump consisting of millions of email addresses and passwords found its way onto a hacker forum earlier this week.
Online security has become a hugely pressing issue in recent years and for good reason. Clever online scams have become staples in every corner of the worldwide web, and tech companies harvesting terabytes of personal information every day have taken the protection of that data about as seriously as a six year old is about protecting their 401k.
To fully understand exactly how big and bad this collection of breached data is for the average person, take a look at some of the details below.
Record Collection of Breached Data: What Happened
Sure, 87 GB of data sounds like a lot, but understanding exactly how much personal information that consists of is important for building a more protected online experience. In addition to the 773 million email addresses leaked on the hacker forum, millions of passwords were also posted. For a clearer picture, here’s what Troy Hunt, the person who discovered the collection and the proprietor of Have I Been Pwned, had to say about just how much personal information was posted.
“In total, there are 1,160,253,228 unique combinations of email addresses and passwords and 21,222,975 unique passwords,” wrote Hunt.
That’s a lot of personal information. In fact, it is the single largest data dump of its kind in the history of the internet, and that’s saying something. The collection, however, is not the result of a single data breach. Rather, as Hunt pointed it, it’s likely made up of a number of small data breaches that combined to create the gigantic cache of data. The MySpace hack in 2008 and the LinkedIn hack in 2016 are likely candidates, as many of the same emails appeared in the collection.
However, as researchers have noted, a large chunk of the personal information leaked has never been seen on the web before, which means there could be a few unreported data breaches still waiting to make breaking news.
The Importance of Online Security
Data breaches and online scams are indeed the result of lax attitudes towards online security, which is ridiculous when you consider how many people have been affected by identity theft. In 2018, a survey from the Harris Poll found that 60 million Americans were affected by identity theft, and 15 million consumers had their identity stolen in 2017. Additionally, the US is the number one targeted country for cybersecurity crimes in the world, which means paying attention to where your personal information resides online is incredibly important as an American.
But hey, if the largest collection of breached data showing up on a hacker forum doesn’t scare you into understanding the importance of online security, what will?
How to Protect Your Personal Information
While this news might come off as a bit of doom and gloom, there is hope for your personal information yet. As researchers insisted, this data dump simply reiterates the value of services like password managers and VPNs when it comes to your online privacy. Don’t believe us? Take it from a cybersecurity expert.
“It is quite a feat not to have had an email address or other personal information breached over the past decade,” said Jake Moore, an expert at ESET UK to The Guardian. “If you’re one of those people who think it won’t happen to you, then it probably already has. Password-managing applications are now widely accepted and they are much easier to integrate into other platforms than before.”
Before you get all worried, it’s not 2012 anymore. Password managers aren’t the bulky, complicated, accidentally-lock-all-your-accounts-because-you-forgot-a-25-character-master-code monstrosities they used to be. Depending on which service you employ, your online experience could be made infinitely more convenient, in addition to being decidedly more secure.
In hopes of convincing you to take your online security a bit more seriously, we’ve put together this handy table of password managers to give you a better idea of your options. Because, ideally, you won’t be one of the owners of one of the 770 million emails posted on a hacker forum.