Security Advisor

Data Breach Fatigue

Do we continuously give companies a pass for letting loose our personal info?

I happen to have a Yahoo e-mail -- one I've had since the late '90s. And one I haven't logged into for close to five years. That's because while I have since added a Gmail account (and a work e-mail account), my Yahoo e-mail has been overrun with spam since Y2K.

So when I first heard the news that there was a chance that my e-mail address and password  info were floating online, I didn't drop what I was doing to check on its status. I really don't care about it that much. Why should I? The e-mail account contained no personal information (due to me never using it).

What I do care about is that, once again, trusting a company as large as Yahoo to keep our personal information safe has been violated.  And while I may not use Yahoo's services other than to read their in-depth sporting analysis (seriously, Yahoo's sports writers are the best), many do. And this includes storing personal information, like contacts and names, in their e-mail profiles.

Jim Walter at McAfee also agrees: "We see this type of attack over and over," he wrote in a blog post. "Most recently LinkedIn and eHarmony were in the news with similar issues. This Yahoo breach is just the latest in a series of similar attacks that occur in multiples every day."

And it is true that these types of incidents happen all the time, causing many of us to feel indifferent to the news that a company we put our trust in couldn't keep our info safe.

It's getting to the point that once news breaks, it's a roulette-wheel chance that the latest breach will affect a service we use. If it doesn't, we breathe a sigh of a relief. If it does, we change our passwords and move on.

Should these companies' feet be held closer to the fire than they seem to be? Or should we all operate with the notion that, at one point, our info will be leaked for all to see and adjust our actions accordingly? Let me know what you think at cpaoli@1105media.com.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 Editor

@SMJ, it was an e-mail address that I had during my high-school years. No contacts were ever saved.

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 smj

I’m glad I am not one our your contacts on your abandoned Yahoo email account. You provided an easy way for spammers to get known-good email accounts. If you weren’t going to use your Yahoo account you should have canceled it. Instead you let down all of your friends and colleagues you may have emailed from there.

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

lollll...you can give up on holding anybody's feet "closer to the fire". If you haven't noticed, you're confronted with two obstacles: Any company that does a good job of protecting individual and business privacy because they believe it is the right thing to do and so they spend on the requisite technology and personnel to protect the data entrusted with them is destined to be consumed by a larger company that has more liquidity for M&A activity because they don't spend on ensuring individual and business privacy and - like as not - they're already monetizing your data. For - and the most important obstacle - your data has value; witness the concurrent ongoing efforts to trivialize the importance of privacy and monetize access to the private data - the "secrets" - of millions of consumers and businesses (do I have to name names?). The game of the day is reprogramming the world into believing that surrendering your privacy and competitiveness to the growing mega-monopolies is an inescapable cost of doing business with or through them. To make the "inescapable" bit a reality, the alternatives are being eliminated (the M&A activity and anti-competitive practices). The greatest obstacle to securing your data of all, of course, is the fact that those who are intent upon transforming the saying "Knowledge is power." into a weapon that they alone possess have a formidable ally in politics...specifically, in the fact that size (or "money", if you prefer) does indeed matter to those politicians who label public taxation as "bad" but private taxation (i.e., profit extorted though monopolistic practices, the elimination of competition, and the destruction of the free market) as "good". In short, good luck with that feet-burning-in-lieu-of-business-ethics idea...unless you weren't merely speaking figuratively? If you were speaking literally...well then yes, feet-burning would work.

Thu, Jul 19, 2012

It seems we need layers of security, so yes the service providers should do their part however we the users should do our part. This includes using strong secure passwords, changing them on a periodic basis, not putting everything into the cloud, having backups of important data.

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 Aleks Kleyn

Problem is not only do we have or do not our personal information. The person who broke email may send from this account email or receive it. Few years ago I was trapped by such email that I believed from my friend. Problem to keep email secure is more important than we think about it. Today anybody can send email without concern if such account exists. and no one internet provider will take responsibility.

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