In February of 2021, a database containing billions of emails and passwords was posted to the dark web in what is being called the biggest breach of all time. Now referred to as the Compilation of Many Breaches (COMB), this particular breach contains more than 3.2 billion pairs of cleartext emails and passwords.
It is important to note that this is not a new breach as such but, as the name suggests, it is actually a compilation of multiple security breaches from major companies such as Netflix, Yahoo and LinkedIn, to name a few.
To understand the sheer magnitude of this breach, take into account for a moment that there are an estimated 7.8 billion people on earth. With roughly 4.7 billion active online, this breach equates to nearly 70% of those users. It is unprecedented and a signal that we need to do better when it comes to cyber security.
What threats does the COMB data leak create?
The COMB data leak, or any breach of its kind, brings with it several potential threats. Firstly, it makes it very likely that those emails will be used in spear-phishing campaigns. Spear phishing is an email scam that aims to steal data from a computer device or network. This can involve an email being opened and a link clicked and downloaded, installing malware onto the device that can be used to steal private data.
Another risk is that this information could be used to gain access to numerous other websites. As is quite common practice, many people tend to use the same login details across multiple sites. This means it is very possible that any login credentials leaked in the COMB breach are not unique to one website, but to many.
This, in turn, makes a user more vulnerable and increases the chances that these details will be used by hackers to engage in credential stuffing which is an automated process that uses specific software to send login requests to a wider selection of websites with the aim of gaining access using the same credentials.
How to tell if personal or company data is included in the breach?
Knowing the threats is one thing, but having a way of checking if any personal or company data is included in this COMB database or any other recorded breach is another. There are several sites where this information can be obtained and one such site is https://haveibeenpwned.com.
This is a free resource for anyone to use to quickly assess if they may have been put at risk due to an online account of theirs having been compromised or “pwned” in a data breach.
What to do if data has been leaked?
The first thing to do would be to change or update passwords across any online accounts. This is something we recommend is done regularly anyway and you can find some more useful cyber security tips we have shared previously here.
We would also recommend that multi-factor authentication is set up wherever possible. This way, even if a hacker is in possession of the username and password for an account, they will not be able to access it.
How to protect against data breaches?
As with anything, prevention is better than cure. There is no magic wand that can 100% protect against cyberattacks, but cybersecurity can make it much more difficult for these attacks to be successful.
With a recent PWC report showing that cybercrime in Ireland is now double the global average with record levels of fraud during 2020, a strong cybersecurity policy is essential to help protect important data from being accessed and leaked.
Setting up firewalls is highly recommended and this will be your first line of defence against attack, but as we saw from the recent HSE ransomware attack, it only takes one employee to unknowingly click a malicious link within an email to expose the company and its data to major risk. In fact, according to Cybint, 95% of cyber security breaches were caused by human error.
It is the Trojan Horse scenario, where you can have the best lines of defence out along the city walls, but it only takes one gatekeeper to open the gates and let the enemy in. This is why cyber security training should be a top priority for any business today. It is not a luxury but a necessity.
Cyber-attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated led by cybercriminal organisations who are well trained and well-funded. The cost of an attack can be colossal not only in financial terms but also in reputational terms for a company.
While cybersecurity measures mentioned above such as firewalls, network infrastructure supports, etc are essential, employees are the last line of defence and need to be trained accordingly, with cyber security awareness effectively becoming embedded in the culture of the company.
Our cyber security awareness training combines regular online training with simulated attacks and in-depth reporting to dramatically reduce the risk of your business falling victim to a genuine cyber attack. Partnering with an experienced training provider and cyber security team can ensure your team is equipped and your business stays safe.