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Report: Largest ever U.S. voter data leak impacts nearly 200 million Americans

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By Theo Thimou, Clark.com

Ready for the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of unsecured data related to our election process in the United States?

On June 12, a cybersecurity researcher discovered personal info on more than 198 million U.S. voters exposed on an unsecured Amazon server.

The info, which included both proprietary and publicly available data, had been compiled by a politically affiliated analytics firm called Deep Root Analytics.

Deep Root had been compiling the info dating for nearly a decade, dating back too 2008 — but the company had failed to adequately secure the info.

Failure to lock down the data meant that anyone could download it. All 1.1 terabytes of it, which is equivalent to 85,899,345 pages of Word documents.

And that’s just what security analyst Chris Vickery of cyber resilience platform UpGuard did over two days from late June 12 to June 14.

The next thing Vickery did? He immediately alerted federal authorities about the hole that could be exploited by malicious hackers.

Here’s the data that was left unguarded in what’s believed to be the largest ever breach in the history of U.S. politics:

  • voter’s name
  • date of birth
  • home address
  • phone number
  • political party affiliation
  • voter registration status
  • federal “Do Not Call” list status
  • so-called “profiling” info, such as ethnicity and religion

Thankfully, what sounds like a nightmare data breach scenario has a happy ending: The data was secured within about 48 hours.

Now, we should note that it doesn’t take an exposed database from a private company to get this info out there; much of it is readily available to the public through state government offices.

Yet the “profiling” info about ethnicity and religion is proprietary to Deep Root, which was in the business of using such info to help Republican candidates make data-informed decisions about how to craft campaign messaging.

Deep Root has taken full responsibility for not securing the data, and CBS News reports the GOP has severed its ties with the analytics firm.

Still, the idea of this info floating around on an unsecured Amazon server is unsettling. It serves to underscore the message about how control of our own personal data is elusive.

Here’s what you can do about it

But don’t give up the ship, American voters! You do have choices if you want to take some control. It’s only a question of how much control you want to take.

In reality, the greatest breach of your privacy may be through smartphones. They are a gold mine for people looking to track you, dissect who are and sell to you.

So if you really want to go off the grid in terms of your info being out there, you’ll probably want to use a feature phone like an older flip-phone.

You might also consider using cash instead of credit or debit so your purchases can’t be tracked. And ceasing your web surfing in the name of privacy!

Pretty extreme, right?

Fortunately, there are less extreme ways to limit tracking.

For example, you might segregate your emails and/or browsers — one e-mail for social media, another for e-commerce, another for news and info sites, etc. That way you compartmentalize what any one group can know about your life.

Here are a few other things to consider…

Tell Google not to track you

Find out how you can see everything Google knows about you, how to delete your activity and how to limit your data from being saved in the future.

Change your  search engine

Try DuckDuckGo, Private Lee, Qrobe.it, IxQuick or Disconnect Search. All of these search engines pride themselves on offering private no-track search capability.

Stop tracking on your phone

Simply go to SmartStorePrivacy.org and you can opt out of mobile location analytics tracking. Not every player in the tracking business is on board with this privacy initiative, but many of the bigger ones are.

Read more: These phones are spying on your activity, including your emails

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