Governments around the world are discussing encryption back doors to help them fight various criminal activities. Data breaches, hacks, and cyber attacks, we hear about every day, affect not just private companies.
Governmental institutions suffer from them too. Due to various software system flaws, millions of unsuspecting citizens have been affected only this year.
Recent events in Baltimore, Florida, and Texas defy this belief. In May, Baltimore struggled with a cyber attack that froze thousands of computers and disrupted real estate sales, water bills, health alerts, and many other services.
A few Florida municipalities had to pay hackers a ransom of $1.1 million after municipal employees were locked out of their email accounts and important files.
“Out-of-date software used by some governments and a variety of contractors make them an easy target. That’s the most common reason why these institutions get hacked. Updating a digital security system and making it immune to cyberattacks require millions of dollars and high-level skills,” explains Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Slow internal processes and complicated procurement procedures add up to the reasons why some organizations are still using unsafe security software. Data breaches are expensive, and the security of people’s sensitive data should be considered priceless.”
Daniel Markuson a digital privacy expert with NordVPN, says that some governmental institutions believe they are too small for hackers to attack them.
Examples of the governmental data breaches that happened this year.
- May, Ivan Begtin, a co-founder of a Russian NGO called Informational Culture, discovered and documented several leaks from Russian government sites. The personal information and passport details of 2.25 million citizens, including high-profile politicians and government officials, were exposed online and available for download.
- June, five million of Bulgaria’s seven million citizens had their personal data compromised in an attack on the country’s national revenue agency. Both private and social security information on every adult in Bulgaria was exposed – perfect for identity theft or attacking lucrative targets. Half of the leaked database was posted on several public forums.
- Late spring of this year, an unknown hacker attacked a US Customs and Border Protection subcontractor and put much of its internal data on the open web for download. The exposed database included photos of travelers’ faces and license plates, surveillance equipment schematics, and sensitive contracting documents. Now, the border surveillance company – the longtime contractor named Perceptics – is suspended from carrying out business with the federal government. However, over 400 GB of data was stolen and 100,000 people were reportedly affected.
Daniel explains that it is quite easy to leak email and password information when an employee clicks on a virus link, reveals user credentials, or downloads malware attachments. “Just one click can compromise the entire database of an institution.”
Human error is one of the biggest sources of data breaches, according to NordVPN’s Daniel Markuson. Using weak passwords and falling for phishing scams can hurt an organization immensely.
- If the leaked information included your login details, you should change them immediately. Start using a password generator for creating strong passwords. Set up 2-factor-authentication, which requires a second password or PIN, usually sent to your smartphone.
- If your payment details were stolen, you should contact your bank as soon as possible and freeze your card. Check your recent statements for any suspicious activity. Set up a fraud alert with the credit bureau that would notify you if someone tries to open new accounts or take out loans using your card.
- If your ID, passport, or social security number were leaked, inform authorities right away. Prove your identity before anyone else did, issue a fraud alert, and review your Social Security statement and credit reports for any illegal activities or suspicious charges.
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