Navigating the aftermath of the AT&T data breach

Lukas Grigas
Cybersecurity Content Writer
AT&T data breach

The recent data breach at AT&T, an American communications giant, affected over 7.6 million current users and approximately 65.6 million former users. The breach ranks among the largest ones in recent memory. So, let’s take a quick look at what went down and see what the affected people can do to mitigate the potential risks associated with having their sensitive information exposed online.

What happened

Back in 2021, a group called "Shiny Hunters" claimed they had an extensive list of personal information of 70 million AT&T users and tried putting it up for sale.

At first, AT&T denied the breach and noted that the data up for sale wasn't theirs. They repeated this when that same data appeared on the dark web.

However, recently, AT&T changed its account almost completely. The communication giant admitted in a statement that the data did have some of its customer information, but they still weren't sure where exactly this information came from.

AT&T figured out that the leaked information affected about 7.6 million of their current customers. They also said the data is from 2019 and earlier and likely includes varied information such as the customer’s name, email address, physical address, phone number, social security number, date of birth, AT&T account number, and passcode.

Emergency measures

So you’ve found out that you’re one of the people affected by the AT&T breach. What should you do? Where do you start? Having your data leaked can be a scary and chaotic experience. So, we’ve prepared a list of what you and other affected individuals can do to mitigate the potentially disastrous consequences of the breach.

Change your password

This is a no-brainer. Whether it’s your sensitive data breach, be it at AT&T or your local coffee, a password change should be the very first step that you should take to mitigate any further potential damage. In this case, recognizing the severity of the breach, AT&T has proactively reset the passcodes for current users.

Enable multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to your accounts. Once MFA is enabled, even if a hacker gets a hold of your password, they still won’t be able to access your account because they won’t have access to the second step of verification, which, in most cases, is a code sent to you over text message or email. Enabling MFA on all of your accounts will significantly improve your overall online security posture and lower the risk of unauthorized access.

Verify no unauthorized use of your social security number

Because you already know that your social security number is out there for grabs, it is a good idea to regularly check if no one has opened any new accounts in your name. Identity theft can have long-lasting effects on your finances, reputation, and mental health.

Check your credit reports

It’s advisable to monitor your credit in the wake of a data breach. Regularly reviewing your credit reports can help you spot any discrepancies or unauthorized accounts that may have been opened in your name.

Consider a credit freeze and sign up for credit monitoring

A credit freeze can prevent bad actors from draining your accounts or opening new accounts in your name. You should also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to any suspicious activity related to your credit report. In fact, AT&T noted in its statement that they are prepared to cover the expenses of credit monitoring services for the affected users.

Beware of phishing in the aftermath of the AT&T breach

In the aftermath of any data breach, one of the most insidious threats that the affected people stand to face is phishing, which is a deceptive practice that involves sending faux emails that seem to come from reputable sources, like AT&T itself, to trick you into revealing sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, or social security numbers.

How to spot and stop phishing attempts

  • Be skeptical: Phishing attacks usually try to leverage the sense of urgency, pressuring recipients to act now. Authentic communications from companies like AT&T will not pressure you to provide sensitive information or to act right this moment.

  • Check the sender’s details: Scrutinize the sender’s email address or phone number. Bad actors are known to mimic common domains and even phone numbers.

  • Look out for suspicious links or attachments: If the link in an email looks odd or does not match the company’s official domain, it’s a massive red flag. The same applies to attachments; in fact, most businesses rarely send emails with attachments to their customers.

What you can do to improve your online security

The AT&T breach should be a reminder—especially for those affected directly—that online security is not an option but rather a necessity in today's interconnected world. Here are some of the proactive steps that you can take to keep your sensitive information safe.

  • Take advantage of NordPass’ Data Breach Scanner: Our Data Breach Scanner is a great resource in the fight against data theft. The tool browses the corners of the internet, including the dark web, to see if your data has been compromised. It tells you if any breaches affected your personal data by feeding your email.

  • Consider identity theft protection: Usually, services that offer identity protection provide a wider range of tools than services that only offer credit monitoring or breach detection. Identity theft protection services are designed to inform you if your social security number or any other sensitive information is used without your authorization. Furthermore, if you suffer identity theft, many such services offer packages for the recovery of your identity and insurance coverage for expenses incurred.

  • Take charge of access security with a password manager: A password manager goes a long way in helping improve your overall online security. It provides a single secure place for all your passwords and other personal data, like credit card details, in an encrypted vault. Such a tool not only makes the whole process of creating strong and unique passwords for all the accounts easy with the help of features like Password Generator but also significantly minimizes the possibility of unauthorized access in general. Moreover, most password managers allow you to share passwords securely, check their strength, and know if your data ended in a breach. In fact, NordPass offers all of this and more, but don’t take our word for it — just try it yourself with a free trial today.

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