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26 billion reasons to protect yourself after a massive data leak is exposed

Technology26 billion reasons to protect yourself after a massive data leak is exposed

A massive data breach leaked more than 26 billion records online, exposing information from some of the most-visited websites on the web. The team at CyberNews.com, along with cyber researcher Bob Dyachenko, discovered those records. Later, data breach search engine Leak Lookup revealed it was the owner of all of that information, which leaked because of a firewall misconfiguration back in December. Here’s what you need to know about the Mother of All Breaches and how to protect yourself.


26 billion reasons to protect yourself after a massive data leak is exposed

Computers used in hack attacks (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The mother of all breaches

Thousands of websites had their records exposed in this supermassive breach. That includes websites like X, LinkedIn, Evite and more. Here’s a breakdown of the ten websites with the most exposed data in the breach:

  • Tencent – 1.5 billion records leaked
  • Weibo – 504 million records leaked
  • MySpace – 360 million records leaked
  • X– 281 million records leaked
  • Wattpad – 271 million records leaked
  • NetEase – 261 million records leaked
  • Deezer – 258 million records leaked
  • LinkedIn – 251 million records leaked
  • AdultFriendFinder – 220 million records leaked
  • Zynga – 217 million records leaked

According to CyberNews.com, government information was also exposed in the breach. While the breach mostly contains information from previous data breaches, CyberNews.com believes it also contains new information as well.

26 billion reasons to protect yourself after a massive data leak is exposed

Hackers typing on keyboards (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)


How can I check if my information was sold on the dark web?

You can go to haveibeenpwned.com to check if someone has sold your data on the dark web. Just enter your email address into the search bar. The website searches the web to see if hackers or breaches leaked your information. It will also let you know if there were data breaches associated with your email address on various sites.

26 billion reasons to protect yourself after a massive data leak is exposed

Illustration of data on a computer screen (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)


What do I do if my data has been stolen?

If you see that your information was part of any sort of breach, you should do the following.

1) Log out of accounts

First, log out of all your accounts on every web browser on your computer. Once you’ve done that, you should clear your browser history.

2) Scan your device

Think of it as a digital health check-up. Use a trusted antivirus, to run a comprehensive scan to detect and remove any lingering traces of malware. The best way to protect yourself from having your data breached is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices.

Having antivirus software on your devices will make sure you are stopped from clicking on any potential malicious links that may install malware on your devices, allowing hackers to gain access to your personal information. Find my review of Best Antivirus Protection here.

3) Change your passwords

If hackers or data breaches expose your passwords, be sure to change them immediately. Be sure to create strong passwords for your accounts and devices, and avoid using the same password for multiple online accounts. Consider using a password manager to securely store and generate complex passwords. It will help you to create unique and difficult-to-crack passwords that a hacker could never guess. 

It also keeps track of all your passwords in one place and fills passwords in for you when you’re logging into an account so that you never have to remember them yourself. The fewer passwords you remember, the less likely you will be to reuse them for your accounts. Our tips and best expert-reviewed password managers can be found here:

4) Use two-factor authentication

Implementing two-factor authentication is just an extra shield that will prevent a hacker from getting into your accounts. This way, even if someone steals your password, they will not be able to access your account without the second factor, such as a code sent to your phone or email.

5) Invest in removal services

While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, having a removal service is great if you want to constantly monitor and automate the process of removing your information from hundreds of sites continuously over a longer period of time. I have found these to be very effective for continual removal.

The first time I tried one, everything I did not want to see about myself was gone. Then months later, it bubbled back into the crevices of Google. That’s when I learned that subscribing to removal services that constantly scour and remove private data is the way to go. Check out my top picks for removal services here.

6) Contact your financial institutions

Contact your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

7) Monitor credit reports

Monitor your credit reports and scores for any signs of identity theft or unauthorized inquiries.

8) Use a VPN

Consider using a VPN to protect your online activity and data. VPNs will protect you from those who want to track and identify your potential location and the websites that you visit. See my expert review of the best VPNs for browsing the web privately on your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

9) Report the data breach

Report the data breach to the relevant authorities and organizations, such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the local police.


Kurt’s key takeaways

A super leak like this is almost unprecedented. While we’ve seen huge breaches before, we’ve never seen anything that contains more than 26 billion records. This leak should stress how important it is to protect your data. Use password managers, and at the very least, different passwords for each of your logins. While it’s easy to use the same couple of passwords, if those passwords are exposed, you’ve just given hackers free access to your other accounts.

How do you protect yourself from data breaches? Are you worried about bigger data breaches to come? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

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