Data breaches have become a threat to mental health, experts warn

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As we’re moving towards a highly technologized future and spend an increasing amount of time in the digital environment, the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks continues to increase. Companies and official institutions are investing heavily in building stronger cybersecurity structures to ensure the safety of their data, but despite all these efforts, the risk of cybercrime remains prevalent. 

Hackers are getting more shrewd at finding vulnerabilities and using them to gain access to sensitive information. According to statistics, over half of the world’s internet users have experienced cybercrime in one form or another. Hardly a day goes by without hearing about a cyber-security incident in the news, so it’s no wonder people are growing more concerned about the safety of the information they share with different organisations. 

Most internet users are well-aware of the consequences that a data breach can have on their life. Having your personal data stolen by a malicious cyber entity can have a long series of negative effects. Data breaches leave you at risk of identity, giving hackers the possibility to use the information they’ve stolen from you to impersonate you. That means they can use your personal data to open accounts in your name, or open a new line of credit and cause you to amass a large amount of debt. Hackers can also try to pass off as the breached company and trick you into disclosing further personal information under the guise of trying to help you.  

However, when you read about data breaches and how they can impact victims, the attention always falls on financial aspects. Obviously, that’s because data breaches can lead to serious financial issues, and that’s the most visible and quantifiable effect. But not enough is being said about the emotional impact and the psychological harm that data breaches can cause. 

Experts believe it’s important to spread awareness and discuss more on the subject of mental health in the context of cyberattacks in order to help people better protect themselves against the damaging consequences associated with cybercrimes. 

How can data breaches affect a person’s mental health?  

In order to understand the full impact that a data breach can have on a victim’s health and wellbeing, it’s important to explain that there are different types of data breaches that can affect users:

Commercial data breaches 

Many of the companies, organisations, and institutions that people interact with collect a variety of data from them, for different purposes. Some of the information collected such as name, address, contact details, and bank account details, falls into the sensitive data category. If a company that holds your sensitive info is targeted by a cyberattack, you risk having your information exposed and used against your will.

When their privacy is violated, a lot of people feel like they’ve lost control over their lives and find themselves struggling to cope with symptoms of stress and anxiety. Not knowing who holds their data and how it’s being used adds to the pressure and uncertainty they’re experiencing. The fact that data breaches usually have long-term consequences makes things even worse. It’s understandable that living in a constant state of fear and panic can have devastating impacts on a person’s mental and physical health. 

Individual data breaches 

When it comes to this type of breach, the responsibility for the loss of data falls on the individual. The use of low-security software, poor cyber hygiene or phishing attacks are some of the most prevalent causes of individual data breaches. 

Similar to commercial data breaches, losing your data because of your own carelessness can have you spiralling down a path of stress and anxiety. You should know that if you’re been a victim of a cyberattack in which your personal information has been exposed, you are entitled to claim compensation for the loss you’ve suffered. Therefore, you should find out how you can claim data breach compensation in the UK to minimise the damages and get your life back on track. 

Protect yourself against data breaches 

Although risks and hazards will always be present in the virtual space, there are various ways to keep threats at bay and protect yourself against data breaches and the negative consequences they bring along. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your data is safe and secure. 

  • Limit the information you share online – although companies and organisations take extensive measures to protect the data and information they collect from their customers, it’s also up to you to practice caution and limit the information you share with others. Always make sure that the organisations that you’re interacting with are legitimate and have strong security policies in place.  
  • Refrain from using public Wi-Fi – it can be tempting to connect to public Wi-Fi networks in cafes, restaurants, or other public spaces, but keep in mind that it’s extremely easy for hackers to access the information you share using these networks. 
  • Use strong passwords – are you the kind of person that uses the same password (usually a combination of birthday date, name pets, and other similar information) for all your accounts? That’s like sending cybercriminals an open invitation to access your accounts and hand them out your personal information. Make sure you create strong passwords for each account to avoid potential issues. 
  • Steer clear of shady websites – scrolling the internet has become a favourite pastime these days. But as fun as it might be, don’t forget that websites also come with their fair share of risks and hazards. Before accessing a site, make sure it’s secure by looking for the locker icon in the address. 
  • Think twice before you click on a link – think before you click is a popular adage meant to warn you against the risk that comes with clicking on suspicious links from unknown senders. If you are not sure about a link’s safety, it’s best to stay away from it.