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Information leaks and data breaches

Learn what an information leak is and the steps you can take to protect yourself after one.

Information leaks and data breaches make it easier for cybercriminals to access your accounts.  

In recent years, millions of Australians have been affected by major data breaches, such as with Optus and Medibank.  

Information leaks aren’t only caused by major data breaches. They're also caused by phishing attacks and scammers tricking people into providing their personal information.  

Here we explain everything you need to know, including the practical steps you should take if your information is leaked.  

What is an information leak? 

An information leak is when your private information is shared online without your permission. 

Data breaches are one of the main causes of information leaks. A data breach is when a cybercriminal steals people’s private information from a business or organisation, such as: 

  • personal information. For example, your name, date of birth and address. 
  • medical records. For example, your Medicare history. 
  • financial information. For example, your bank account login information. 
  • account details. For example, your usernames, passwords and email addresses.

Cybercriminals want this information because they can make money trading or selling it online.

Why are information leaks bad?

If your information is leaked, your online accounts could be easily accessed by cybercriminals. Once cybercriminals have your information, they could:

  • steal your money
  • steal your identity
  • target you in a scam
  • pretend to be you online 
  • open accounts in your name
  • access your other accounts that use the same account details
  • send spam or phishing emails from your email address.

Top tip

Cybercriminals know that many of us use the same username and password for our online accounts. They may try to use the account details they’ve stolen from one of your accounts to log into your other accounts. The best way to prevent this from happening is to use a different password for every online account and turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) where available.

Simple steps to protect yourself after an information leak

It’s not always possible to prevent information leaks. They’re sometimes out of our control, such as when there’s been a data breach.

The good news is that you can minimise further harm in a few simple steps. We’ve outlined them below – follow the ones relevant to your situation. 

How do I find out if my information has been leaked?

If you want to find out if you’ve been impacted by an information leak, you can: