Do you Know if your Data has been Breached?

Author:
Robert Godfrey
Partner, Head of Professional Negligence and Dispute Resolution
Date:
21/01/2021

How data-savvy are you? Well, according to our new research, not as savvy as you might first think.

We asked the UK public to tell us what companies they believe had a data breach in the last six years, and a large majority (95%) were are unaware that major companies such as Boots, Microsoft and Ticketmaster had a data breach in the last six years.

This means people could be putting their private information at risk of exposure, or worse.  

Major Ignorance over Major Data Breaches

Our analysis showed how many major companies, public organisations, and government bodies have had some form of data breach in the last six years, yet 95% of the UK public are unaware of this fact.

A data breach happens when sensitive or confidential information (such as financial information, passwords, or heath records) is accessed by an individual who is not authorised to do so. The term “data breach” covers everything from millions of records being lost, to a single individual viewing information they should have not seen.

Just one in twenty (5%) were aware that popular business messaging platform, Slack, had suffered a data breach; just 6% understood that leading website and blog building system, WordPress had been the victim of a data breach; and just 7% of people knew social news site, Reddit had suffered from a data breach in the last six years – despite all of the sites and services being commonly used by people in the UK, every day.

Companies that have had a reported data breach in the last six years

% of public who are aware of  the breach

Slack (Communication Platform)

5%

WordPress (Content management system)

5%

Under Armour (Sports equipment company)

5%

Ofcom (The Office of Communications)

5%

Reddit (Social news site)

7%

Nintendo (Video game company)

8%

Twitch (Video live streaming service)

8%

Ancestry.com (Genealogy company)

10%

Capital One (Bank holding company)

10%

Adobe Inc (Computer software)

10%

Hilton Hotels (Hotels)

10%

Google Plus (Social network)

12%

Virgin Media (Telecommunications company)

13%

Uber (Taxis and food delivery)

13%

YouTube (Video-sharing platform)

13%

Boots (Pharmacist)

14%

TikTok (Social networking service)

14%

Instagram (Social networking service)

14%

Ticketmaster (Ticket company)

15%

Heathrow Airport

15%

Microsoft (Computer Software)

17%

EasyJet (Airline)

18%

US Department of Homeland Security

19%

U.S. federal government

20%

NHS

29%

British Airways (Airline)

35%

Facebook (Social networking service)

43%

Worryingly, two in ten (19%) Brits believe none of the above companies suffered from a data breach in the last six years, when in fact all of them had experienced one - although the scale of the breach does vary.

How does a Data Breach happen?

Data breaches can happen through hackers deliberately targeting sites, poor security measures or simply when data is accidentally published. They can also be caused by human error, such as a laptop with sensitive information being left in a public place.

The majority of Brits are also unsure about what action they should take if they suspect their details may have been acquired in a data breach. Just four in ten (39%) believe they know what to do to secure their data. Over half (56%) admitted to not knowing what action to take, and one in twenty (5%) claimed they would do nothing.

Criminal Activity

A third of Brits (32%) are also unaware of what criminals can do with their data – leaving them worryingly exposed.

Criminals can use stolen data to impersonate someone, and can then do various things in their name, such as applying for credit cards and loans, or making fraudulent purchases, or even transferring funds. Hackers can also sell the data they have stolen on the dark web, where other criminals can use it to impersonate someone or access their accounts.

What to do if your Data is breached

In order to check if your data has been breached, you can enter your email addresses into our data breach checker. You should also check your junk mail and inbox to see if you’ve had an email from any organisation that confirms your data has been breached.

Our Head of Dispute Resolution, Robert Godfrey, has offered his top tips on how to protect yourself if your data is breached:

If you have become aware that a company that holds your sensitive data has had a breach, you can take steps to protect yourself, and you could even claim compensation. You should also:

  • Change your passwords - If you become aware that your data has been lost by a company that holds it, be sure to change your password for that account, but also any other online account that you have the same password for.
  • Keep checking your bank accounts and credit report - Keep checking your bank account and credit reports in the months after your data has been breached, especially if the breach included financial information. If you see anything unusual, contact your bank immediately and explain that you think you’ve been the victim of fraud.
  • Find out if you can make a data breach claim - If your personal data has been breached, you may have a claim for compensation against the business or organisation which exposed your data. There are time limits to making a data breach claim, which is usually 6 years from the date of the breach. However, time limits can be shorter if a group action has already started.

Robert advised: “It’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible if you think your data might have been breached.”

So, if you are concerned that your data has been breached, use our simple data breach tool to check your information, and speak to one of our advisers to see if they can help.

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