Half of all Virginians have had their personal information exposed

Half of all Virginians have had their personal information exposed

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Chances are that your personal information has been stolen. It's possible that it could be sitting on the black market right now, waiting for a buyer.

By law, all data-breaches in the Commonwealth must be reported to the Attorney General's Office. Attorney General Mark Herring's computer crimes division tracks hacks and lost or stolen information.

Your data is out there, encrypted, hidden, password protected and under siege, daily. High profile hack attacks are stealing your names, dates of birth, credit card information and social security numbers. "It's a serious threat. It's a growing threat, and its becoming more complicated because of technology," Herring said. His office estimates 4.5 million Virginians have experienced a data breach in just the last two years, which is 1 out of every 2 Virginians.

"Companies are required to inform us as soon as they learn of a data breach," Herring said. His office provided a list of all the companies that have notified his office of breaches over the last two years. More than 550 security leaks are on that list. We are even on pace to surpass last year's numbers. On that list, there were big names like Genworth, Citibank, Turbo Tax and Uber. Hackers also hit T-Mobile, stealing the names and social security numbers of 340,000 Virginians. The Anthem hack gave away the information of 3.7 million Virginians.

However, not everything on list is a computer hack. "It could come from a point of sale device. It could come from a small camera that's planted near a card swipe," Herring added.

Not every data leak is big. For instance,18 people had their information compromised in a Kohl's breach. American Airlines reported a problem with 1 person's data.

"There's also just a lot of essentially negligence that occurs. Whether it's a lost laptop from a company or sending out the wrong information to people over email," said Gene Fishel, who leads the computer crimes division in the Attorney General's Office. In his lab, the state investigates hacking intrusions, computer fraud and cases of child exploitation. The team of cyber-crime fighters can plug into every cell phone ever made and pull data. They can also break into computer hard drives that are brought in as police evidence and and track online crimes. The people in the computer crimes division help police build and solve cases across the state.

"When there's a theft of personal information, that information is then turned around and sold on the internet to other criminals," Fishel said. "Just because your information has been compromised, doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to be the victim of identity theft. It does mean you're risk has greatly increased," he added.

Closely monitor your accounts. If you get a notice in the mail that your information may have been compromised, follow all the advice in the letter. If the company offers you free credit protection for a year, take it. Also, make sure you get a free credit report a few times a year to make sure no credit cards have been opened up in your name. All of these steps could save you a big hassle.

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