Whether you’re dealing with losing credit card information from your laptop, or with hackers breaking into the Red Cross database and coming away with the personal data of 515,000 people, data breaches are a serious threat. But how do these breaches happen? More importantly, what can you do to protect your home and business from them?
According to the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, 80% of data breaches occur because hackers guess a weak or reused password, or find it somewhere online. A data breach scanner can tell you if your password was compromised in this way, and most come with a nifty set of tools to prevent future breaches. Let’s take a closer look at how they work.
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Secure your password with a data breach scanner
If your data was leaked and is sitting somewhere online, you can find it with a data breach scanner. Simply input a password into the scanner and it will search the web for it. If it finds your password, it will inform you that the password is compromised and you should update it.
Ironically, a password cracker program used by hackers typically works the same way, but in reverse. It scans the web for various passwords, and tries hundreds or thousands of them in just a few seconds, quickly cracking a password-protected computer unless its password is unique.
The good news is that if the data breach scanner can’t find your password, hackers will have a harder time cracking it.
In addition to finding passwords, a good data breach scanner can trawl the net for credit card numbers, emails, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and other types of personal data.
In addition to actively checking your information every time you think to use it, a scanner should ideally passively monitor your data and notify you if a breach occurs. This is called breach monitoring, which is a handy feature, but it means the scanner saves your personal data.
This brings me to my next point: the data breach scanner itself is a ripe target for a data breach because you and thousands of other users are diligently storing information in it. To that end, your scanner must be secure. At the very least, it should have 256-bit AES encryption, which is the industry standard for most applications, including those used by the US government and military.
My top pick for a business and personal data breach scanner, NordPass, goes one step further with XChaCha20 encryption, which is stronger than the industry standard. It also uses zero-knowledge architecture, meaning no one except you – not even NordPass employees – can access your data without your permission.
Features for individuals
If you want to protect your personal computer, there are a few key features you should look at. Firstly, look for a data breach scanner that doubles as a password keeper, to ensure your password is secure.
A password keeper has one master password, which you use to access the keeper. You can save all of your online accounts to the keeper, and it will remember them and add long, randomly generated passwords with special characters, letters, and numbers that are difficult to crack. Each time you log in to any of your accounts, type in your master password and the keeper will fill in the assigned random password.
As long as you remember one secure master password, the password keeper ensures the security of your data. It will never repeat passwords, and you don’t have to use weak (and easy to remember) passwords for your accounts.
While no password keeper or breach scanner is completely hacker-proof, it does make your data incredibly hard to hack compared to the average person. For casual browsing, this is usually enough. Why would a hacker bother you when 99% of the public is a much easier target? However, while this may be true for most individuals, it’s generally untrue for business users.
Features for businesses
If your business has an extensive customer database, or if your employer gives you access to a database owned by a third party, it could be worth a hacker's time to patiently break through your defenses.
Security risk also comes from employees who require access to sensitive data for work, so it’s essential to limit data access to a need-to-know basis.
A business data breach scanner should come with simple access management features that enable you to limit employee access based on what they explicitly need to do their job.
The breach scanner's proactive security should automatically extend to all your staff. You might periodically remember to check if your work email was breached, but will your employees? A good scanner automatically scans your company database for breaches and notifies affected employees to change their login credentials if necessary.
Finally, the scanner must be accessible, with a convenient dashboard for IT administrators. A simple onboarding process should make it simple to deploy, update, and maintain regardless of the size of your network.
I believe NordPass for Business meets or exceeds all of these metrics. It’s the only major business password manager that integrates with Google Workspace, enabling employees to log directly into NordPass from any device with a Google email address. This is great for large teams. It also features proactive scanning, an easy-to-use security dashboard, and access management.
Whether you’re protecting personal data, or securing your business against cyberattack, step one is to find out if your data is already compromised. Effective data breach scanning software will tell you the moment your data is no longer safe. To help avoid a breach in the first place, data breach scanners offer password storage, the ability to scan other data types such as emails or payment info, and keep everything safeguarded with military-grade encryption.
To learn more about data security, see our article on the top data breaches and cyberattacks of 2022, and look at our picks for the best password generators to help protect your home or business.