More than 711 million email accounts have been exposed as part of a major spamming and malware operation, security researchers are warning.
A security researcher operating under the pseudonym Benkow was first to pick up on the breach, and soon alerted the attention of Troy Hunt, the notorious security expert behind Have I Been Pwned? - a huge search database that permits users to find out if any of their accounts have been compromised in a data breach. You'll need to enter your email address here - don't worry, there's no security threat to doing so, and you'll never be asked to enter a password or other personal data.
"Just for a sense of scale, that's nearly one address for every single man, woman and child in all of Europe", said Troy Hunt of HaveIBeenPwned, according to Metro.
Hunt said numerous records appear to have been collected from previous breaches, including LinkedIn's incident past year, in which 117 million accounts were affected, as well as the 4.2 million email addresses stolen from the Exploit.In database. "This should give you an appreciation of how our data is redistributed over and over again once it's out there in the public domain".
Hunt was quick to note numerous email addresses appeared to have been scraped off the web or aggregated from other sources, "so whilst the "711 million" headline is technically accurate, the number of real humans in the data is going to be somewhat less". If anything, he said, it may explain an increase in spam you've been receiving.
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The information was leaked after cyber criminals allowed visitors to their servers to download their database without needing a username or password.
Data breaches are unfortunately rife in today's online world.
When you open one of those messages you are unknowingly downloading a one-pixel image along with the message. "They might not even know". He said that "a single file may contain tens or even hundreds of millions of addresses". It also seems like numerous email addresses are not linked to real accounts. As always, if your email address has indeed been leaked, it's always a good idea to refresh your password with something new to help avoid unwanted access. The data stolen in that breach appeared for sale on the dark web in May 2016. Passwords that have been affected are not shown on the site.
Fingerprinting messages look just like the ones you get all the time: solicitations from lonely Russian women, notifications that your Paypal account (or some misspelled variation) is compromised, problems with a package you're supposed to receive, or various other scams.