AT&T probes data breach affecting millions of customers

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AT&T announced on Saturday that it is investigating a major data breach involving the personal information of over 73 million current and former customer accounts.

The company said a data set containing records on approximately 7.6 million existing AT&T accounts and 65.4 million former accounts was released on the dark web.

According to AT&T’s preliminary analysis, the compromised data appears to date back to 2019 or earlier. However, the company stated it has not yet determined whether the data originated from AT&T’s systems directly or from one of its vendors. 

As a precautionary measure, AT&T has reset account passcodes for the 7.6 million current customers affected. The company said it will also offer credit monitoring services wherever applicable to protect individuals from potential fraud or identity theft.

Anne Cutler, Cybersecurity Expert at Keeper Security, warned that the breach is especially severe due to the personal identifiable information like names, emails, addresses, and Social Security numbers included in the compromised data.

“The immediate concern is the potential exploitation of this exposed data, which could lead to various malicious activities such as identity theft, phishing attacks, and unauthorised access to user accounts,” Cutler stated.

Cutler advised current and former AT&T customers to “assume they’ve already been breached” and take steps like changing login credentials, signing up for dark web monitoring, and freezing their credit. She also recommended that individuals use strong unique passwords, enable multi-factor authentication, update software regularly and practice good cyber hygiene.

For companies, Cutler suggested monitoring network traffic, conducting security audits, implementing access controls, and adopting privileged access management solutions.

Tim Kravchunovsky, Founder and CEO of the decentralised telecommunications network Chirp, called the breach a “wake-up call” for enhancing security with measures like blockchain-based data storage with “immutability, institutional-grade encryption, and sophisticated protection from multiple attack vectors.”

The breach is the latest security incident for AT&T, which provides 5G wireless service to around 290 million people across the US. Consumer privacy advocates have raised concerns about the increasing frequency of major data breaches.

AT&T stated it is notifying impacted parties and determining the incident’s full scope.

(Photo by Brendan Stephens)

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