Data Breaches: How Bad Is Your Cyber Security at Risk? What Can you Do To Protect Your Sensitive Information? – Online Investigation Part 1

You are just done shopping or getting a particular service and it’s time to pay up. You choose to use a credit or debit card. Ever wondered if the service provider may retain some of your card’s critical information and use it to steal from you later? Well, you are not alone. This is a common worry among many consumers. Bearing in mind the increase of fraud and hacking cases, this concern does hold water. But, does that mean that you should refrain from using your cards? Is your information safe when you use your credit card? Read along to find out.

Where is Your Information Stored?

There are various technologies used to ensure that any information you transmit is kept safe and secure. One of such technologies is Secure Sockets Layer SSL, an effective protocol that uses a private key that mathematically encrypts any data that is sent from your browser to a given website. That means that any information you pass on can only be read by you and the intended recipient.

Other than that, the technology helps verify the authenticity of a website and scans it for Malware. For these reasons the SSL is considered among the safest technologies when it comes to protecting users’ data.

With regards to the information provided, it is stored in an encrypted format on the website’s database, for the next time you will need to pay for something again. That is unless you choose to remove the card and re-introduce it each time you want to make a payment – which is not advisable.

However, the security of your information is not only dependent on such technologies, this is only one part of it. The company has to also uphold sound protection against malware and viruses and protect every password involved.

It is important to note that applying such measures once is not enough as technology keeps changing. The company should, therefore, have a team in place that helps keep their security protocols up to date.

To add on, the company should ensure the stuff in charge of users’ data are trustworthy. Though the technologies used and protection measures taken may be topnotch, if the operators choose to steal users’ data, they can. There have been numerous cases whereby employees made away with users’ data.

Major Companies that Have Experienced a Data Breach

Let’s have a look at some of the major companies that have experienced a major blow as a result of data hacks.


Yahoo has publicly announced twice of having experienced data hacks that led to the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of its users landing in the wrong hands. In 2013, one of its networks was hacked and 3 billion accounts were exposed. Again, in 2014 the company was hacked and over 500 million accounts exposed.


In 2019, Macy’s reported a data breach, whereby unauthorized persons had managed to hack into its users’ database through the ‘my wallet’ and ‘checkout’ pages. Though only a few of its users were affected, the issue was a big deal considering the popularity of the brand.


It is quite scary to think that a data management company is susceptible to hackers but that is what happened to Veeam, an IT company that develops data management software for infrastructures. In 2018, about 445 million records that contained names, emails, and IP addresses were left in the open for about 10 days. The company says it was a mistake on their part terming it as ‘human error’


In 2018, MyFitnessPal a fitness app by UnderAmour was hacked into and the usernames, email addresses, and encrypted passwords of its users stolen.

Starwood Hotel

The Starwood Hotel, owned by Marriot hotels, experienced a major data hack in 2018. It is reported that hackers managed to get away with its guest reservation database which had information of over 500 million guests. It is speculated that the hacking activity had gone undetected for over four years.

The above are just but a few of the companies that have become victims of data hack attacks. Other worthy mentions include Adidas, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Mixology 101, and Kay Jewelers.

You may be wondering what hackers do with the stolen information. Well, it usually ends up on the dark web, where it is sold to anonymous persons. There are also various sites, on the common browsers, that openly promote the buying and selling of such information. They include:,,,, and just to mention a few.

Therefore, if your information is stolen you can neither tell who it will end up with nor what becomes of it.

Which is Safer, Online or Offline Shopping?

According to the Insider, both online and offline shopping is risky. Though in offline shopping the risk is slightly minimized as you have the option of paying via cash.

Malwarebytes LABS also backs up this fact. Considering that the rate of online shopping has gone up due to Covid-19, so has the number of credit card skimmers. As such consumers have to exercise caution, especially when shopping online.

What Measures Can You Take to Protect Your Data?

Companies are mostly responsible for protecting their users’ data. But clearly, they are not immune to hack attacks. The good news is, as an individual there are several measures you can take to further strengthen the security of your data.

They include:


  1. Be Sensitive When Giving out Information

Do not share your information via any communication channel, unless it is you who has initiated the transaction and are sure who you are dealing with. Also, do not click on random links that may appear on your screen or entertain phishing emails.

  1. Avoid Public WiFi

Inasmuch as a public WiFi may seem enticing, it is best to avoid it. Reportedly, a lot of hackers take advantage of Public WiFi to steal data from unsuspecting victims.

  1. Check Out Companies’/Websites’ Private Policy

As tedious as it may seem to read such, it may be what will save you from losing your data. Private policies enlighten you on the security measures a company has in place and how any information you will provide will be used. If the Private Policy is too complex to understand or if there is none consider it a red flag.

  1. Use up-to-date Software

As mentioned above, technology keeps changing. To tackle the ever-evolving malware, viruses, and the like, ensure to only use the latest software for your operating system and browser.

  1. Dispose Of Your Information Appropriately

Whenever you are disposing off any of your devices, ensure to permanently delete your data. If you are not sure how to go about it, refer to your user’s manual.

  1. Look out for the Lock Icon

Whenever you want to share your card details or any personal information look out for the lock icon on the status bar of your internet browser. This is a pointer that the site you are about to send your information to is secure.

  1. Avoid Automatic Log-ins

Automatic logins make our work easier such that you do not have to key in your details every time you want to access a particular Site. However, this feature can also be risky if any of your gadgets is stolen, as unauthorized persons can access these sites and steal your information.

  1. Use Complex Passwords

Avoid passwords that are easy to guess. Incorporating numbers and special characters will prove harder for hackers to crack.

  1. Use a VPN

A VPN is software that not only hides your IP address but also scrambles your data such that a hacker cannot tell what you are doing online. A VPN can be installed on your phone, tablet, laptop or computer.



  1. Use the same password for different sites.
  2. Download data from unauthorized sites.
  3. Log in to ‘important’ sites from foreign gadgets.
  4. Overshare your personal information on your social media accounts – only share the basics.
  5. Use the same passwords year in, year out . You should make it a habit to periodically change them.
  6. Accept friend requests from people you do not know.
  7. Open random links or attachments you are not sure about.

Take Away;

Whenever you shop online or offline you risk losing your data to hackers. Luckily, there are several measures you can take to minimize the chances of falling victim. These include shopping with a credible and secure company and incorporating the personal measures highlighted above. As long as you pay attention to these, your data should be safe and secure.

Disclaimer: The articles and videos posted on are only intended to educate users online about how hackers use their personal information for malicious gains and is in no way intended to harm anyone. We condemn any sort of online attacks of any kind that may bring harm to a persons’ well being due to cyber crimes.

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Data Breaches: How Bad Is Your Cyber Security at Risk? What Can you Do To Protect Your Sensitive Information? – Online Investigation Part 1
Data Breaches: How Bad Is Your Cyber Security at Risk? What Can you Do To Protect Your Sensitive Information? – Online Investigation Part 1
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