Web users are so used to data breaches that so many millions have forgotten have fallen victim to hackers over the years.
Yahoo is the latest and biggest disaster, with executives admitting personal information of about 500 million customers was lost to cyber criminals in 2014.
But if the US government cannot keep the details of more than 20 million federal employees secure, how is anyone else expected to beat the hackers?
In 2014, the US Office of Personnel Management saw staff records and security clearances robbed from their servers.
To put the Yahoo hack into perspective, only two countries have populations larger than 500 million people – India and China.
Even the USA, which has the third largest population of 321 million, falls well short of the stolen Yahoo membership details.
The biggest online security breaches
That 500 million web users represents one in 14 people on the planet.
Other data breaches include 117 million LinkedIn users; 700,000 taxpayers listed in a IRS data breach; 32 million while Ashley Madison dating site visitors lost their privacy in 2015.
More well-reported hacks included naked selfies of Hollywood stars snatched from Apple’s iCloud, 360 million MySpace user names and passwords and profiles of several million Carphone Warehouse and Talk Talk mobile network customers in the UK.
These are only the reported hacks – and many organisations will have kept quiet about network infiltration or paying ransoms to hackers.
Keeping data secure online is not easy. Basically any security system invented can be hacked by someone with state-of-the-art equipment and matching IT skills.
Keeping your online data safe
Without too much paranoia, the best an ordinary web user can do is cover the basics:
- Don’t keep the same password for every account
- Have a schedule for changing passwords
- Don’t use pet names, number sequences such as birthdays or other easily breakable passwords
- Install the best antivirus and antimalware software
- Check bank statements regularly for unexpected transactions which will often be for online services
- Cancel debit or credit cards as soon as suspicious activity is detected
The bad news is no one online is ever safe from hackers. All they can do is tighten security to give them less opportunity to access accounts or computers.