Massive Data Leak Exposes 340 Million Americans Personal Data - Now What!

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By Hector Cisneros

How valuable is your Personal Data? It’s extremely valuable, at least according to the data aggregation company Exactis. They collect and sell consumer and business data to marketers and resellers all over the world. They have collected information on 218 million individuals, 110 million U.S. households, 88 million verified email addresses and 112 million records with residential phone numbers. The fact that you have probably never heard of Exactis, or that they have collected so much personal data isn’t surprising. What’s very scary is the fact that this data was easily accessible to anybody with only a little internet search knowhow. In other words, any hacker could (and may have) downloaded this massive database, making it easy to profile, imitate, or go after almost every citizen, family, and business in the United States. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we’ll discuss this massive data leak along with several other huge data breaches that have just taken place in the last few months. So, hold onto your internet passwords and lock down your social accounts as we explore the ever-growing massive data breaches that are making U.S. citizens vulnerable to hack attacks.



Recently, the online magazine WIRED published an article with the headline: MARKETING FIRM EXACTIS LEAKED A PERSONAL INFO DATABASE WITH 340 MILLION RECORDS. This immediately made me think – here we go again, another Equifax type breach.  You may have read my article called; The Latest Hack Attack - Equifax Breach Exposes 143 Million Americans. But this would only be another Blast from the past like our warning article called; Big Data Comes Wrapped in Big Danger, or It's Midnight - Do You Know Where Your Data is? Or even our article called: The Cybercrime Clock is Ticking. Yes, this is not only a recurring theme, it's becoming the norm!

Massive Leak - This latest crack in our privacy armor was the massive data leak mentioned in the WIRED article above. Though not technically a breach, this data was exposed to anyone who wanted it, as this data was accessible without a firewall or other means of protection! WHAT? This is even worse than a breach! The cybercriminals didn’t even have to hack Exactis to get the data. Although Exactis has plugged this hole, I am sure the damage was already done. I see a lawsuit in the making here!

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The data on the Exactis.com website did not contain financial data, social security numbers or
passwords, but it did contain a vast amount of personal and business profile data that could make it easy for any cybercriminal to create a psychological strategy to fool millions of individuals and businesses to give up access to their online accounts and digital devices.

An article in the online version of Market Watch, by Miles Murphy, states that Exactis database leak exposed a wide variety of personal information on American adults. This database includes more than 400 personal characteristics of individuals and businesses, including things like if you are a smoker, have a dog or cat, your religion, political party, and a multitude of personal interests, along with your email address and phone number. This is exactly the kind of data cybercriminals use to create attack strategies like phishing emails and social media copycat accounts designed to breach an individual’s cyber defense’s.

And if you think this is just a lot of stressing over nothing, understand this. The main reason the number of massive breaches is growing at such a fantastic rate is just because each new breach allows the cybercriminals to expand their psychological database of the individuals they are targeting. In essence, they are improving their profile databases which allows them to improve their strategies and attack methods.

And the Hack Fest Goes On – Some of the latest breaches beyond the Equifax breach should also make the hair on your neck stand up – especially if you like using Uber! An article called: Uber's massive hack: What we know, talked about how 57 million users and drivers' data being exposed. Worse yet was the fact that Uber did not disclose this information for almost a year!!! Read: Uber concealed massive hack that exposed data of 57m users and drivers. You may also remember that when Yahoo was hacked, they dragged their feet as well until the number of exposed users reached 3 billion accounts. Let’s not forget all the cryptocurrency breaches that have recently taken place as well. The online version of CNBC recently had the headline: Massive Japanese cryptocurrency hack won't be the last which talked about the Wall Street analyst discussing the 500+ million dollar hack heist that took place in January of 2018. If that wasn’t enough – check out the article in Business Inside online called: If you shopped at these 15 stores in the last year, your data might have been stolen! It provides the names of 15 prominent retailers who were recently hacked. Or the article on the Identity Force blog called: Recent Data Breaches: May 2018. It provides another list of prominent University’s, municipalities, businesses and more that were also hacked.

Other articles worth reading include those from the news website;  DataBreachToday.com/news, the 2018 Threat Report: Tech Trends and Key Takeaways, the World's Biggest Data Breaches InfoGraph and Fraud.org news section Learn more about the latest data breaches.

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How Do You Know When an attack Takes Place? On my phone, I have a security app called “Lookout” which provides me mobile security with an “Identity Protection” section that also provides a Breach Report. This breach report is published live to my smartphone as it receives the information. For Example, the report listed a recent breach at Macy’s last Wednesday, as well as listing Adidas and Exactis on July 1st, (Exactis being the main impetus for this article). Along these same lines, I recommend visiting your favorite antimalware company's website on a regular basis. For example, TrendMicro website has a section called “Breaking News & Intelligence,” along with another area called “Research & Report.” These two TrendMicro webpage sections provide a wealth of current info about a variety of cyber threats. Similarly, Malwarebytes offers web pages that include current information on Threats, Scams, and News. I am sure that many other antimalware companies offer similar services as well. But remember, these reports are for threats that have already taken place. You need to be proactive to protect yourself.

More ways to Protect Yourself – If you think that having an anti-malware application installed on your digital device is all you need, you’re sadly mistaken. Knowledge is a powerful weapon if implemented for your defense. If you follow this line of thinking, then articles that will help you plug the holes in your defenses are in order. Here are some of our most popular articles:

Although this article was prompted by a massive data leak (verse a data breach), it exemplifies how vulnerable our privacy is. We have allowed mega-corporations to gather our personal data without cost, protection or consequences. This problem is partially our fault. Many have a laissez-faire attitude about internet security on their digital devices (especially smartphones). Billions of people have willingly handed over their personal information to countless social media networks, online magazines, and retailers without regard to the potential security risks that come with big data. Billions of users and subscribers download apps and subscribe to SAS products (i.e., software as a service) without reading the EULA’s (end user licensing agreements). Even the recent GDPR agreements (general data protection regulation, policy) most companies had to implement were no exception. The GDPR policy’s where designed to protect us, yet many of the policies that were implemented state that these companies could do with our data as they deem fit. We now have the right to ask them to remove us, but how many of us have asked? Plus, it is next to impossible to completely be removed from their databases because of technical problems with backups.

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How many of you actually have read any of the GDPR agreements? How many of you have taken the responsibility to read a single EULA in its entirety? I would bet less than 1/10 of 1 percent! Computers, software programs, applications, smartphones and the internet have provided us with a lot of power and very little wisdom! This brings me to my ultimate conclusion. To quote my favorite arachnid superhero; “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s time the users of our digital world begin to take their responsibility to a higher level. Without taking that step – without taking personal responsibility for the security of your personal information and your digital devices - you are headed for a personal disaster. It’s my hope that this article will help a few more people take personal responsibility for their privacy and security. There’s always hope that more will wake up. Yes, there is always hope, but hope without action is just a dream. And in this instance, it could become your worst nightmare.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article discusses a massive data leak from Exactis that exposed most Americans personal data to anyone who wanted it. Further, it provides many details and links to related articles as well. It also discusses several of the most recent large data breaches that are affecting Americans and provides many links to resources that can provide the reader with methods and tips designed to shore up their privacy and improve their digital security.
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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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