How to protect yourself following the latest global data breach
The personal details of millions of people have been exposed following the hack of an electronic toy company’s database.
Kid tech firm Vtech announced last Friday (27 November) that the customer database for its Learning Lodge app store was accessed by “an unauthorized party” some two weeks previously.
In a statement on its site, Vtech said it didn’t find out about the breach until 23 November, when it was contacted by a Canadian journalist asking about the incident. After checking up on the query, Vtech says it “detected some irregular activity on our Learning Lodge website on 14 November”.
Learning Lodge is an online store where Vtech customers can download apps, games and books onto their devices.
The breach is believed to have affected more than four million accounts worldwide, with customers in the UK, US, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Spain and France among those whose data has been exposed.
That data includes names, email addresses, encrypted passwords, secret questions and answers for password retrieval, IP addresses, postal addresses and download histories, Vtech says.
The personal details of children using the toys associated with these accounts may also have been leaked. Various news sources have reported that the customer database was briefly made accessible online – and that the first names, genders and dates of birth of children using the accounts were also visible. Vtech has stressed that no credit card or other payment information was accessed.
Vtech is just the latest in a long line of companies to have its security (or lack of) exposed by hackers. But if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of UK parents who has an account with them, here’s what you need to do right now.
Change your password – wherever it’s used
If you’re super-security conscious, you’ll already have a different password (each one uncrackable) for every account you use online. But if you’re like the rest of us, you probably reuse the same password all over the place. It’s time to change that. Start off with your Vtech account – switch your password over and make sure you choose a new password that is extremely secure. Now have a think about any other accounts where you’ve used the same password. You will need to change your password on all of those accounts. It’s a hassle, but a free password manager program can make it much less of a headache.
Create a new email address
If the email address you used for your Vtech account is your main one, change the password on it just to be safe. Or, if it’s not an account you care about, you can simply bin it and start up a new one. Either way, it’s a good idea to grab yourself a new email address that you can use solely for signing up for online stores and suchlike in future. That puts your core email address out of the line of fire and also saves you wading through tons of spammy ‘promo’ emails.
For more detail on the Vtech database breach, visit the company’s FAQ page.