King County Security Tips: What’s the deal with data breaches?

Data breaches are becoming more and more common these days. You hear about them in the news all the time. So you might be wondering: what exactly is a data breach? A data breach is when secure information is taken from a trusted environment without permission. The bad guys can use this information to steal your identity, hack into your online accounts, or use the information for targeted phishing attacks to gather even more information about you.

However, just because the data was exposed does not necessarily mean it’s already being used by the bad guys. It only means that bad guys can easily gain access to it. There are steps you can take to protect your information even if you were exposed in a data breach.

How do I protect my information?

  • Use secure passwords. You may also want to try using a password manager.
  • Set up two-factor or multi-factor authentication.
  • Keep your personal information secure. Never share your passwords or personal information with anyone you don’t know. Shred documents with your personal information on it before throwing it away.

What do I do if my information was already exposed in a breach?

Don’t panic! Take a moment to assess the situation. Ask yourself: What sort of information was exposed? Do I need to notify my bank or other entities? What steps should I take to make my information more secure now?

  • If your password was exposed, we recommend changing your password for all online accounts associated with that password immediately. Make sure the password is complex or use a password generator to create one for you. For extra security, you may want to set up two-factor or multi-factor authentication.
  • If your credit card number or bank account number was exposed, we recommend calling your bank or cardholder and canceling your card(s) immediately. Let them know that your information was exposed so they know to look out for charges that may be fraudulent.
  • If your social security number was exposed, immediately report that your social security number was stolen to the police, credit-reporting agencies, and the IRS. You may also want to sign up for a service that can monitor your identity or credit for added protection.

For more information, please email: kcitcsat@kingcounty.gov.