There are a handful of computer hacks and data breaches that have made headlines. Most notably was the Ashley Madison breach that had everyone glued to their news feeds. Unfortunately though, there are 10s of thousands of websites hacked on a daily basis that are not reported on. Which is probably why you may not have heard about the latest hack: VTech.
VTech is the popular toy company that makes digital products such as tablets, cameras, and baby monitors. Late November of 2015, a 'white hat' hacker was able to access their databases. The 'white hats' are the good guys, also known as 'hacktivists'. They break into systems to find vulnerabilities and then force companies to upgrade their securities. It's like hiring an ex criminal to try to break into your home just to see if they can do it and then fixing the weaknesses. Not that all hacktivists are ex-criminals, just that they know how to think like them. In most cases, hacktivists don't distribute the information, they just prove it is possible to get.
What was taken?
The hacker in question was able to get a hold of 4.8 million parent accounts and over 200,000 children's accounts from VTech's Learning Lodge website. Information includes parents email addresses, home addresses, security questions (and answers) and as well children's birthdates, names and genders. More importantly, there were many photos and videos as well.
What do I do now?
The good news is that this particular hacker had no malintent so nothing was breached - or given away - in this hack. That said, the system could have been breached before by someone else who could still be using this information.
In the event of any hack, the best place to check to see if your information has been breached is Have I Been Pwned. The website name comes from online gaming language where 'pwned' is a substitute for 'owned' meaning 'has someone got me'. The website itself is a trusted service. You enter in your email address and it will give you a list of any or all hacked data breaches in which your account is included. If your account is in a sensitive breach, like Ashley Madison, they will email you the information to make sure that only you get the results. The site is run by a hacktivist who verifies data before posting it.
Digital information is ony ever as safe as the system that holds it. With breaches to the Apple iCloud, Snapchat and banking institutions, it shows us that no system is 100% secure. All information should then be treated as permanent and potentially public. Much like a physical credit card you carry in your wallet; it is safe until the time you accidentally leave your card on a store counter or someone steals it out of your bag. Unlikey, but always possible.