You’ve probably seen some scary-looking headlines about 250 million Microsoft users being compromised in a recent data breach. While those numbers are accurate, they don’t tell the whole story—it wasn’t quite as dangerous as it sounds. Let’s quickly go over the details of the breach and ways you can help keep your data safe from further misuse.
First, and most importantly: Your personal info is probably safe, at least for now. The breach was Microsoft’s fault—the company accidentally left a database of customer service records exposed for two days before fixing the issue. Even though the database contained information on 250 million people, very little of it is actually usable. Almost all personal information was redacted from the records, the only notable exceptions being some email and IP addresses.
If you’ve never used the Microsoft help and support services, you’re probably not affected. And even if your info was exposed, hackers probably can’t do much with what was there—though they still might try.
Microsoft says it found no evidence the database has been accessed for “malicious use,” but the company warns that exposed emails could be used to send phishing attacks from accounts posing as official Microsoft support. For example, a hacker could use details from the email exchanges to send someone a fake follow-up about their issue with links that redirect to fake login pages that steal your login info.
Here’s our quick advice for this one. Keep an eye out for random “Microsoft Support” emails if you’ve used the service in the past, and be smart about not clicking on any random links you get that feel the slightest bit unprompted. Otherwise, there’s little to worry about with this data breach.