How to protect personal info after AT&T's data breach

Irving Mejia-Hilario, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Business News

Some 73 million former and current AT&T account holders are being notified that sensitive information, like full names and social security numbers, has been leaked onto the dark web as a result of a data breach at the Dallas-based telecommunications giant last weekend.

The data breach could pose serious risks to those affected and open up users to becoming victims of identity fraud. However, there are some steps AT&T account holders can take right now and in the future to prevent the impact from becoming worse.

“In today’s day and age, third parties have your data. It’s just a fact of life that we all have to live with,” said Mitch Thornton, executive director of the Darwin Deason Institute for Cybersecurity at Southern Methodist University. “All you can do is protect yourself, your systems and your access to third-party accounts.”

AT&T said it will notify users who have been affected through mail or email. The company has also said it has begun an investigation to determine what the cause of the data breach was and is offering affected customers complimentary identity theft and credit monitoring services.

But, in the meantime, here’s some steps you can take to protect yourself and your private information.

The basics


Criminals who steal private data often sneak small purchases in between larger bills in the hopes users won’t notice it, Thornton said. Checking credit should be the first step most people will need to take, he said.

“Monitor your credit for suspicious activity. Don’t just pay your credit card bills and whatnot without going through your transactions,” Thornton said. “Oftentimes, these criminals will make a small purchase just to test if you’re monitoring your accounts. You’d be surprised at the kinds of stuff you might find.”

Resetting passwords and applying two-factor authentication, a security system that requires two different forms of identification, should always be in place to be the most well protected. But if users haven’t already, doing both is crucial at a time like this.

Resetting a password every six months, while time-consuming, could save individuals a headache down the road, Thornton said.


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