Data breaches are commonplace in the digital world that we now live in. Yahoo's two massive breaches immediately come to mind when thinking about this topic.
Sometimes, though, hackers aren't to blame for exposing victims' personal data. A careless database administrator can be at fault if security systems are not in place. Unfortunately, this just happened to a branch of the U.S. military.
How did sensitive military data get compromised?
A database containing documents full of sensitive information related to the U.S. Air Force has been exposed. MacKeeper researchers recently discovered that the database was unprotected online. Meaning anyone could access the documents without even needing a password.
The exposed files appear to be held on an internet-connected backup drive that for some unknown reason is not password-protected. The researchers who found the documents don't know how long they've been open to the public.
Some of the exposed data include names, addresses, social security numbers and ranks of over 4,000 Air Force officers. Other documents revealed phone numbers along with contact information for their spouses.
There was even a spreadsheet containing information dealing with open investigations within the military. Detailed descriptions of the accusations along with the name, location and rank of the accused were exposed.
Some are worried that this information in the wrong hands could lead to blackmail attempts that could hurt national security. Since the data was open to anyone who stumbled across it, we don't know if someone other than the security researchers accessed it.
Since we take precautionary steps in our lives every day to stay protected from digital threats, it's scary to think our government can be so careless. It's not just exposed databases that we need to be worried about. We recently told you the CIA's biggest hacking secrets and how you could be spied on through everyday gadgets.
This makes it more important than ever to stay vigilant with online security. Here are some suggestions that will help you stay protected.
How to stay protected online:
- Change your password - Whenever you hear news of a data breach, it's a good idea to change your account passwords. Read this article to help you create hack-proof passwords.
- Investigate your email address - Have I Been Pwnd is an easy-to-use site with a database of information that hackers and malicious programs have released publicly. It monitors hacker sites and collects new data every five to 10 minutes about the latest hacks and exposures.
- Close unused accounts - Here's an easy way to manage all of your online accounts at once.
- Beware of phishing scams - Scammers will try and piggyback on huge breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.
- Manage passwords - Many people use the same username and password on multiple sites. This is a terrible practice and you should never do it. If you're using the same credentials on multiple sites, change them to make them unique. If you have too many accounts to remember, you could always use a password manager.
- Keep an eye on your bank accounts - You should be frequently checking your bank statements, looking for suspicious activity. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately.
- Check email security settings - Make sure the email account associated with the hacked site has updated security settings.
- Have strong security software - Protecting your gadgets with strong security software is important. It's the best defense against digital threats.