In this digital age when everything from banking accounts to photo albums are online, people are left wondering just how safe the Internet age is. While the risks are real, staying protected is possible. Being aware and taking the right measures can help you avoid being a target. Jennifer Morris tells you how.
Why Passwords are Stolen
Mainly to obtain profit, but also as a way to gain leverage and embarrass or expose a person or company, passwords are stolen for several reasons. It’s easy to think “Oh, I don’t have anything worth stealing” but that’s where you are wrong. Even if someone hacking your social media account isn’t at the top of your worry list, someone stealing your personal information and identity or implanting viruses on your computer and sending them to others should be. Hackers target large corporations, rich CEOs and average Joe Blows and Jane Does.
How it is Done
Passwords are stolen in several ways. According to an infographic on preventing hacking, common security breaches happen through guessing, phishing, shoulder surfing and computer programs that track keystrokes or use a database of passwords to hack accounts. Guessing is a common hacking tool, as most people create passwords using personal information that is easy to remember, such as birthdays, anniversaries and names. Tricking users into providing information through legitimate-seeming emails and prompts is another common way. Hackers also roam Internet cafes and libraries and watch users type personal information into websites.
Don’t Be a Target
While there are risks when using the Internet and social media, there are many ways to stay protected. Don’t ever click on links that seem suspicious, are from people you don’t know or are unorganized and hard to understand. If someone you know sent you a link without an explanation, contact the person and ask them if the link is legitimate. When creating passwords, don’t use personal information or easy-to-remember terms that can be easily guessed by a hacker. Also, avoid using the same password on several sites. This way, if one of your passwords is stolen hackers won’t be able to break into every one of your accounts. Monitor your accounts online closely. Identity theft companies such as Lifelock can help users stay protected by monitoring accounts and alerting them if something seems suspicious.
Clean Up Your Accounts
Linking your accounts together is a great tool to stay connected and many common apps have access to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for this reason. Every once in a while, though, you’ll want to clean up your accounts and make sure you are only allowing apps you use to have access to your accounts. Eliminating unused apps helps you stay protected from unnecessary security breaches. Do this by logging into your social networking accounts and through the settings tab, un-authorize applications that are no longer in use. LinkedIn makes this easy, by allowing users to check off apps they want removed. Twitter and Facebook also have this feature, but revoking access to apps must be done one by one.
In late October, SplashData.com released its annual “25 Worst Passwords of the Year” list, using notable password breaches from Yahoo!, LinkedIn, eHarmony and others. Just in time for Halloween, the results were scary. At the top of the list were “password,” “123456? and “abc123.” These frequently used passwords put people at risk of being hacked and haven their information or identity stolen.
“…Those who have been through it can tell you how terrifying it is to have your identity stolen because of a hacked password,” said Morgan Slain, SplashData CEO, on the company’s site. “We’re hoping that with more publicity about how risky it is to use weak passwords, more people will start taking simple steps to protect themselves by using stronger passwords and using different passwords for different websites.”
Jennifer is an ardent follower of cloud solution trends and database security improvement. She shares tips and advice with her readers on several business-related sites.
I always recommend LastPass as it simplifies keeping your passwords random, different for each site, and yet always available and simple to use. LastPass Sentry even monitors your accounts for security breaches for free! In addition to LastPass you should use Google Authenticator and use two-step authentication. You should use it because 2-step verification can significantly reduce the chances of having the personal information in your Google account stolen by someone else.