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My Password Appeared In A Data Breach – Can I Claim?

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Your passwords are key to accessing your vital accounts — from email accounts to online banking and shopping and everything in between — that you really need them to remain secure. Stolen passwords can cause such a huge amount of harm, especially if the same password is used across multiple accounts.

Sometimes a password may be compromised through your own error, but what if the password leak is due to a data breach on the part of another organisation? Is it possible to make a data breach claim in these circumstances?

Here we outline what a password breach is, how they might occur, plus the circumstances in which you might be able to make a claim if your password has been compromised.

What is a password data breach?

A compromised password occurs when a usually encrypted password is accessible to unauthorised individuals. This might have occurred through a security breach or hack and could potentially mean that a cybercriminal has your password and is able to access your account(s).

How might my password have been breached?

In some circumstances an individual’s password might have been breached due to owner error. Using the same password, using weak passwords, or being caught out by phishing scams can often lead to a password leak, but fault here does not lie with an organisation and therefore no claim would be possible in these circumstances.

However, password leaks that result from data security incidents, where multiple passwords or security question answers have been part of a data breach are a different matter. Where an organisation has been trusted with your data but has failed to adequately protect it, perhaps due to inadequate security systems and vulnerabilities, a claim could potentially result.

How worried should I be if my password has been leaked in a data breach?

Compromised passwords can be a real cause for concern as they can leave your personal information and online accounts vulnerable. Data breaches of this nature can lead to identity theft and financial fraud, so it is important to take all the necessary steps to ensure that your online privacy is not compromised further.

With one password known, individuals may be able to access your email account, which could potentially give them the ability to change passwords on other accounts, since ‘change password’ notifications are often handled through an email account. Only if you have already implemented multi factor authentication, or other similar security measures, might you be able to avoid this scenario with many of your online accounts.

Your stolen credentials can often end up on the dark web, leaving you open to phishing attacks or individuals trying to gain access to other accounts to undertake fraudulent activity. Some of these accounts may contain sensitive information which you would not want to be accessible to unauthorised individuals.

Where you have used a weak password, the same password or similar passwords on multiple accounts, it is possible that others may be able to guess passwords

What do I need to do if my password has been compromised?

Password breaches can occur when hackers gain unauthorised access to an organisation’s system or network that contains user login credentials. Typically, if your password has been involved in a data leak, you should have been notified and it is important to take swift action to prevent your data being accessible to unauthorised persons.

Steps to take in the event of a breached passwords include:

  • Immediately change your password (using strong, unique passwords that contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special letters).
  • If the same password has been used on multiple other accounts, change these too.
  • Add an extra layer of security by changing the email address associated with the account.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (with a code being generated to your phone to allow access to the account).
  • Monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity.
  • Use a password manager to keep track of multiple passwords and you’ll usually only need to remember one master password.
  • Take care when opening future emails or answering calls to avoid phishing attempts.

 

Can you seek compensation for a password data breach?

When you learn that your password has been compromised, it can be a worrying time, especially when you have to move with haste to lock down your accounts before they are accessed by unauthorised persons. In some instances this may cause the minimum of disruption to you, and may not necessarily lead to a valid claim.

For a valid data protection claim, you will need to have suffered harm due to the password data breach, and that breach must have been caused by the organisation, whether due to human error, inadequate security systems or even malicious insider acts. Harm could be material (financial harm) or non-material (emotional or psychological).

What data protection law is applicable in the UK?

The UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK-GDPR) sits alongside the Data Protection Act 2018 in setting out laws on data protection in England and Wales that apply to those involved in storing, processing and collecting personal data. It aims to safeguard individuals, their privacy and use of their personal information by companies and organisations.

Is there a time limit on password data breach claims?

Usually a personal data breach claim can be brought up to six years after learning of the breach as per the Limitation Act of 1980. However, this time limit changes to just one year if the claim relates to a password breach against a public body. It is advisable to seek advice as soon as possible to avoid missing out on a potential claim.

What does it mean when your phone says your password has appeared in a data breach?

iOS devices and those using Google accounts are just some of the ways in which you might find out that your password has appeared in a data leak. These use techniques to check your saved passwords against lists of leaked passwords and identify those that may have been involved in a data breach.

Can I check if my password has been compromised?

If you are thinking that your passwords have been compromised, it is possible to make a few checks that would indicate you have a problem. You should look for suspicious activity on any of your online accounts such as attempting to login or changes to account settings.

With your email account, look for any message that you did not send or receive or see if there are any purchase receipts that you do not recognise. In Apple or Google mail settings, you will be able to see the actual location where your account has been logged into.

There are also services like ‘have i been pwned‘ which are able to check if your email address has been involved in a data breach.

Start your claim

If you think your passwords may have been compromised by security breaches of some kind, get in touch and we can help you with your claim on no win, no fee basis. We are ready to help you get the compensation you could deserve if your passwords have been compromised and you have suffered harm in some way.

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Eleanor Watts

Eleanor Watts is a skilled solicitor who specialises in handling data breach cases and leads the dedicated team at the Data Breach department. Her journey began at the University of Nottingham, where she earned her law degree, and later pursued her masters in law from the University of Law. Becoming a qualified solicitor in 2021 after completing her training, Eleanor's focus turned to data protection and privacy claims, a field she's excelled in since the implementation of GDPR in 2018.

Eleanor Watts

Eleanor Watts is a skilled solicitor who specialises in handling data breach cases and leads the dedicated team at the Data Breach department. Her journey began at the University of Nottingham, where she earned her law degree, and later pursued her masters in law from the University of Law. Becoming a qualified solicitor in 2021 after completing her training, Eleanor's focus turned to data protection and privacy claims, a field she's excelled in since the implementation of GDPR in 2018.

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