Recipes for online privacy from Firefox
Photo by  Soroush Karimi  on  Unsplash

Fact: Data breaches are on the rise. According to web security experts, the frequency of data breaches almost doubled from 2016 to 2017, and 73% of all U.S. companies have experienced some form of a data breach. And yet, while data breach incidents are increasing, many people brush them off unless they are personally affected. That’s a problem.


Why recipes?

Gabriela Ivens, a researcher and digital privacy advocate, was curious about what information was compromised during data breaches. Her investigation revealed that all sorts of personal information can be exposed in a breach, and in the case of particularly bad email hacks, actual body content of messages can get released. Within those messages, details of our personal lives can be found. Things like recipes, hundreds of them.

What kind of shellfish do you prefer in your paella? Why do we stir risotto just so? Is overnight oatmeal really better? What’s the secret to a perfect pancake? Cheese dip, hot or cold?

These are just a handful of the surprisingly personal, private stories Gabi uncovered as she sifted through piles of breached data available on the internet. While the recipes themselves are essentially mundane pieces of information, they represent an intimate side of life. They also represent something precious that we lose if we’re not more vigilant about online security — our personal privacy.

If someone were able to hack into your email and found a secret family recipe of yours, what else could they find? Your cell phone number, included in your email signature? Photos of friends and family? Your address included in an invitation to a dinner party? And what could be done with all of that information?

Well, a lot. More than most people realize. So when Gabi pitched the idea of a cookbook of emailed recipes collected from data breaches, we were interested in the prospect of connecting something as human as a home-cooked meal to the somewhat cold and detached topic of data breaches. It ended up having more even human implications than we expected.

If you’ve been victim of a data breach, please know that you are not alone. It happens to millions of people every year. While you, as an average internet citizen, cannot prevent or block every attempted privacy breach, there are some things you can do to improve your security after they occur. We have also included some recommendations for how to avoid certain security risks.

And finally, the act of breaking bread with someone is a way to build trust and openness. Why not make some of these dishes for friends and family and have an honest conversation about online security? The internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get our online houses in order.

Monitor your email for breaches

Firefox Monitor is a fast, free service to help you immediately know whether or not to take action when a data breach becomes public. Visit Firefox Monitor to see if your email address has appeared in a data breach, and if so, what you should do about it.