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In what has become an alarming security trend, yet another company has exposed millions of consumers’ profiles online due to a non-password protected web-based server. Ladders, a recruitment site that lets users create a profile that can be shared with potential employers, was using an Amazon-hosted web server to store the profiles; according to a security researcher who discovered the information exposed online—and according to confirmation from the company—13.7 million of those users’ complete profiles were available to anyone who knew to look for them.

While the information didn’t appear to contain Social Security numbers, everything else that you might list in a job application was there. Names, email addresses, physical addresses, work histories, educational level, even whether or not the applicant had a security clearance and in what field were all available.

Fortunately, the information was discovered by Sanyam Jain, who works for a non-profit that specifically looks for overexposed information and reports it. There’s no way of knowing if anyone with malicious intentions got to it beforehand, though. After receiving the report, Ladders took down the database within a short time.

Incidents like this one continue to happen, largely due to poor password security. In far too many of the cases of accidental overexposure or data leak, the company who posted their information didn’t realize the default setting was “open” to the public.

For users of any platform, there’s really no way to prevent this kind of oversharing of their information. Other than contacting the company’s IT department, asking if they host their databases on web-based servers, and then asking if that server is password protected—all of which the IT department is probably not going to share with a member of the general public—there’s not much that individuals can do. But here are some actionable steps:

  1. Establish a secondary email – In cases like this, a spammer could download the database and target the users with spam and potentially harmful emails. If you’re establishing online accounts, you might consider setting up an email address that you only use for those purposes. However, in this case, it must be one that you can still check routinely since the purpose of the account was to be notified about job opportunities.
  2. Password security – Even if the other company doesn’t quite have their passwords nailed down, that doesn’t mean you can’t be safer with good password security. Never reuse a password or make one that’s too easy—remember, humans don’t sit and “guess” your password, but rather, software that can make billions of guesses per second does the job for them. Also, it’s a good idea to change your password from time to time, especially on sensitive accounts.
  3. Don’t throw in the towel – Even if it feels like your information is exposed every single day, that’s not the case. Data breach fatigue is a documented problem, but don’t let the constant news of poor security practices keep you from locking down your information as much as possible.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help. Speak to an identity theft advisor for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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