Almost a year ago, in January of 2019, news of data breach broke about Collection #1. You may or may not have heard of it. What made Collection #1 data breach unique is the sheer magnitude and weight of it. Troy Hunt, security researcher and owner of the site “Have I Been Pwned?” found the treasure trove of data and reported it to the world.
The data was initially found on a cloud server called MEGA in a popular hacker forum and was later posted on the dark web for all to see. The file was over 87 GB large, with more than 12,000 files. It contained more than 2.7 billion rows of information from more than 2000 data breaches and included email addresses, usernames, and decrypted passwords for more than a billion people. Mr. Hunt uploaded all the passwords to his server so that owners of the accounts could check to see if their data was included. Collection #1 is the largest-ever compilation of hacked, stolen data to date. The number of unique email addresses in the list total 772,904,991. Additionally, there are 21,222,975 unique passwords.
Should You Be Concerned About Collection #1 Data Breach?
Although the data showed millions of plain text passwords that had been decoded, many of them were from old, stale accounts and unusable to any criminals. The package was being offered on the dark web at no cost, which also begs the question of value. Additionally, since the passwords were in plain text, they won’t work in sites that add salting or hashing to the password. Only a very skilled hacker would be able to use the data efficiently.
Security experts assume that the intention was to use the data for credential stuffing. However, other uses for stale data are phishing campaigns and ransomware, extortion, and other techniques to scare people by sharing some information and tricking them into thinking you have more.
Upon learning of the incident, Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity contacted a party selling the list and found out there were seven more identical lists totaling more than 500 GB of data. Since then, security researchers have seen Collections #2, #3, #4, and #5 surface for sale on the dark web and they had five times the amount of information that Collect # 1 had. Some of the data contained within them were from the Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Dropbox data breaches.
What is Credential Stuffing
If your logins were included in the Collection #1 data breach, you will want to know what credential stuffing is. It’s when hackers take a list of potential username/password combinations and use sophisticated software they throw them against hundreds of websites to see if they can get in. These combinations worked somewhere, at one time, so they are hoping they are still active at least somewhere. Your best defense against credential stuffing is changing your passwords often and never using the same ones on different sites.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Collection #1 Data Breach
At this point, most Americans have been affected by at least one of the data breaches that have taken place in recent history. Many of us have been hit multiple times. So, what can you do to stay safe?
- If you are included in this latest data breach, visit Have I Been Pwned? to see if you're listed in pwned passwords. You can also run your most secure passwords through the site and see if they show up anywhere on the dark web also.
- Change all your login passwords on every site immediately.
- Use only strong, long passwords that use a combination of letters (both capitalized and lowercase) numbers and symbols.
- Never use the same passwords on multiple sites.
- Consider using a password vault and generator to create long, complex passwords for you and store them, so you don’t have to remember each one.
- Watch out for phishing attempts or scam emails.
- Never click links or download attachments in emails.
- Never download software from an untrusted vendor and stay away from insecure websites.
- Install antivirus software with ransomware protection. Run deep scans often.
- Keep all your devices updated with the latest operating system and security patches.
- Enable two-factor authentication on all your accounts, whenever available.
Although no credit card or banking information was included in this massive data breach, criminals do have all they need to wage pretty successful phishing campaigns and possibly other methods towards identity theft. Follow the tips above and use common sense to stay safe.