The “this password appeared in a data leak” notification can feel terrifying at a glance. Your password is the only fine border that’s keeping apart an adversary from compromising all your digital information.
This notification on your iPhone is an alert that your password associated with an account registered on your device has been found in a publicly accessible database of breached credentials. You can tap on each notification to see which website was breached.
The notification of your password appearing in a data leak is a cybersecurity feature that was implemented by Apple through a security update that was rolled out to iPhones running on iOS 14 and above.
This feature can be turned On or Off from Settings >> Passwords >> Security Recommendations.
The words “password” and “data leak”, when appended together, can wreak havoc and anxiety in your mind and bug you with questions concerning the safety of your digital life.
In this article, we will delve deep into what exactly the “this password appeared in a data leak” notification on iPhone means, the severity of it, and draw the bottom line of how to mitigate this apparent threat so you can rest easy and rid yourself of the anxiety.
“This Password Appeared in a Data Leak” What does it Mean?
“This password appeared in a data leak” is a tell-tale sign of a security breach and it means that there has been a data leak in which a password associated with your accounts was found to be compromised. This feature was implemented by Apple in all iPhones running iOS 14 or above. You can enable or disable this feature from the Settings >> Passwords >> Security Recommendations setting.
Earlier, you had to visit the haveibeenpwned website and manually check if your emails and passwords are secure. But, with this update, Apple made it really convenient to keep in check the integrity of your passwords and whether they are safe to use anymore.
How Did Your Password Appear in a Data Leak?
The most common way in which your passwords are leaked to the public is when there is a security breach in a company that collects private information like email, passwords, etc.
For instance, if a social media site like Facebook or Instagram gets breached, the adversary(ies) will gain access to a massive database of usernames, emails, passwords, and tons of other sensitive data which was otherwise private. These databases are dumped and then sold illegally to bidders on the Dark Net.
Oftentimes, these databases are released to the public internet. Essentially, what it means is that anyone who knows their way around the interweb can openly access a database that contains all your private information like email, passwords, birthdate, number, etc.
How Bad Can It Be When Password Appears in a Data Leak?
An adversary with malicious intent can assert complete control over your digital identity. They can skim your credit card details, cause data theft and loss, and completely take over your accounts rendering you powerless to retaliate.
Your digital identity will be lost from you and can be misused for ill practices. With enough intent, they can even set you up for crimes you have never committed. Their actions online can make you suffer in real life and it will, with all certainty, be a heavy price to pay for minor negligence.
Sounds terrifying, right? It rightfully is. However, fret not for we have you covered. Should you ever have to face such adversity, the following steps will help you mitigate it swiftly. Moreover, we’ve also provided a few additional safety pointers that will help you in keeping your information safe and secure.
How to Protect Yourself from Password Data Leak
The first and most important step in this scenario is to calm down. Only with a calm mind can you find clarity. So, take a breath and proceed to follow these steps.
Find out Where Your Password Was Leaked
If the Security Recommendations settings are enabled on your iPhone, it will alert you with a list of websites and services that fell victim to a data breach and where your passwords have been compromised, just like Google Password Manager or Lastpass.
It is important to note down these websites as there may be multiple accounts of yours that are currently compromised. So, you have to manually update all their passwords.
Alternatively, you can manually check all your accounts at haveibeenpwned website to verify their security and find all the data breaches that involved your account.
Change Your Passwords Right Away
You should always change your password if it was in a data leak. Now that you’re aware of which websites or services were compromised, waste no time and head over to those sites.
Go to your account settings and set a fresh password that obeys all the recommended password metrics like length, characters, numbers, etc.
Furthermore, if you can, set up 2-factor authentication on that account. This is the sole and the most effective countermeasure you can take to combat a data breach.
Turn On Two Factor Authentication on Your iPhone
Two-factor authentication is one of the most effective tools for adding an additional layer of security to your accounts and minimizing the danger of falling victim to online security breaches. It’s a straightforward solution with significant advantages.
Turning on two-factor authentication for some critical apps and accounts or when using Apple Pay to make online transactions is a wise decision that will save you from regret.
How To Turn On Two-Factor Authentication on iPhone, iPad, and iPod
Here’s how to set up two-factor authentication on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch:
STEP 1: Head over to Settings and tap Apple ID account at the top
STEP 2: Tap the Password & Security option.
STEP 3: Tap on the Two-Factor Authentication option.
STEP 4: Tap on Continue and proceed to follow the on-screen instructions to set up the security feature.
STEP 5: Tap on Next to confirm your credentials.
STEP 6: Enter the verification code to verify your registered phone number and successfully set up Two-Factor Authentication on your iPhone.
Note: You might be asked for answers to your Apple ID security questions as an additional verification process.
Best Practises for Maximum Password Security on iPhone
You cannot prevent a security breach. But, you can minimize and negate how much it affects you. How, you ask? By simply following a few of the expert-suggested practices when setting up or maintaining an account.
Here are a few pointers for you to get started on securing your accounts:
- Use minimum 12-character long passwords with varying alphanumerical inputs
- Make sure each of your accounts has a unique and unidentical password
- Enable 2-factor authentication whenever possible
- Do not allow websites to get geolocation data
- Set up a recovery email in case your primary email is compromised
- Use secure and encrypted email like protonmail, Gmail, etc
- Refrain from inputting your credentials into shady websites
- Refrain from clicking on shady links from random Whatsapp forwards
What does the “this password has appeared in a data leak” notification on iPhone mean?
Apple implemented a security feature for its iOS and iPadOS devices that delivers a “this password has appeared in a data leak” notification to users when it detects one or many passwords associated with registered Apple ID accounts have been compromised due to a data breach. In case you get the notification on your device, you should immediately change the password of the account that appeared in a data breach incident.
Are data leaks with passwords serious?
Although passwords appearing in data leaks does not mean that anyone can access your data and information, which are supposed to remain private, easily. However, as data breach incidents put private user information at risk, anyone who is looking to get your information online and knows their way around the web can easily get a headstart from data leaks.
Is the “this password appeared in a data leak” notification real on iPhones?
Yes, the “this password appeared in a data leak” notification only appears for those users whose passwords have appeared in a recent or past data breach incident. This means that the user’s personal information is up for grabs on the internet for those who really want them to find.
What does “appear in a data leak” mean for passwords?
Social media and many other digital companies with millions of registered users sometimes experience serious ransomware attacks by threat actors that often leak the victim company’s user data on the internet for anyone to access. So, if you have an account on, say, a social media platform and that company gets hacked, your password along with your other private information associated with your social media account will “appear in the data leak” which will put your digital security at high risk.