These days, internet users are suffering from ever-present data breaches in which their data is accessed by unauthorized parties
T-Mobile recently had a data breach which resulted in 47 million people’s data being leaked online. Much of that data was collected with user consent when they signed up for cellular phone service, but that’s not always the case in a data breach, as many companies collect data without users' knowledge or express consent. And even if you have consented to your data being collected, if it isn’t stored securely or is held onto for longer than necessary, the risk of your data being leaked in a breach increases.
It might feel like we’re getting hit with a data breach every week these days; that this type of attack is only becoming more and more common. And it’s true. In fact, as internet technologists, we feel the same way that many climate scientists felt for so long: The increasing frequency of personal data breaches feels like the equivalent of climate change for privacy. Just as the Earth is undergoing climate change, the internet and its users are suffering from ever-present data breaches in which consumer data is accessed by unauthorized parties. In both cases, there is no immediate remedy in sight.
Just as evidence of global climate change is often hard to perceive, data breaches happen out of sight. But over time, they happen more frequently, encroaching on our personal privacy gradually and often without us noticing or paying attention, until all of sudden the ramifications are on our doorstep and staring us in the face. In the T-Mobile breach, the type of data which was compromised varied by customer type. For prepaid customers, names, phone numbers, as well as PIN numbers were affected. Other T-Mobile customers who had applied for credit had different but more sensitive data leaked including date of birth, Social Security number, and Driver’s license information.
If you or someone you know are current or former T-Mobile customers, there are actions you can take to protect yourself. First, T-Mobile has set up a page on their website describing what you can do. This includes two years of free identity theft protection from McAfee and T-Mobile account protection. It is also in your best interest to freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion). You can also change your password to something complex, change your T-Mobile PIN, and turn on multi-factor authentication for your account if you do not currently use it. Former customers should go ahead and delete their unused account with T-Mobile.
The more accounts you have online, the more likely you are to be affected by a data breach, so it makes sense to delete any unused accounts and in particular those with companies who have collected sensitive information from you. Unfortunately, this is necessary to protect yourself as data breaches are becoming more and more frequent. At this time, there is no way to prevent your data from being exposed in a breach, so it's crucial to take the necessary steps to mitigate damage to you and your family.