Internet security is something 99% of the public pretty much take for granted. We may be a little cautious when doing online banking or when we are buying online and need to enter our credit card information, but overall we are way to lax in the way we behave in this regard. And as we saw in 2012, it was a banner year for even the big players on the internet to get hacked and then see our logins and passwords posted in the open. The likes of such trusted giants as; linkedin, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon and Bell South, had a combined login/password hack of over 7,000,000. So the questions are, how secure are we and what steps can we take?
Let’s start with the simple steps you can take. User studies have continually shown that we, as a user community, keep making the same lazy mistake of picking passwords that are simple and common and we use them over and over at multiple sites. When we look at survey results we see that passwords such as; 123456, QWERTY, God, password, Ninja, welcome, sunshine, princess and the hugely challenging 123456789. So if your password is in this list you for sure better change it very fast. In a recent study it was shown that up to 55% of people reuse passwords to some extent, with some people always using the same password for all their sit logins. If you are doing this then get the to every site you are on and one by one start changing your passwords and keep them all different. Do not compromise your digital security footprint with your laziness.
But this is just the first step in your vigilance to self protect your logins and passwords. Now that you have harder passwords to crack and have made sure that you never re-use your passwords the next step you need to pay attention to is to never fall prey to any phishing. Simply put, phishing is when someone presents themselves to you as a contact you can trust that needs your login and password for what on the surface might appear to be a legitimate purpose. DO NOT be fooled. Never ever share your login and/or password and in the rare case where you must then immediately change it. Once some unscrupulous person has gained access to your email account he will mine through it quickly and try to now steal your login credentials for others sites; such as your work email account, your contacts list, your credit card and bank information, social security info, etc. The list of what resides in most of our email accounts is impressive and frightening if we consider it getting into someone elses hands.
Also, be extremely cautious of what you download and where you download it from. Digital thieves are very smooth at enticing people to click on links that quickly place malware into your PC. Once your PC is infected this malware can launch attacks in numerous different ways, such as, embedding a keystroke logger that records your login and password and then sends it back to the attacker. Once again, once a thief gets a toe hold into your digital information it can be devastating. So be cautious and only download from very trusted sites and make sure you have installed anti-malware and anti-virus software.
The final methodology of how you might lose your login and password credentials is sadly one that you can do nothing to prevent. If the information attack is targeted at your email provider and they are successful there are no steps you can take to prevent this. One year ago a series of attacks against trusted sites such as; linkedin, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon and Bell South wreaked havoc and threatened the online security of nearly 7,000,000 users. After the sites were hacked the login credentials and passwords of these accounts were posted online with in one instance the perpetrators saying they “meant no harm” but instead did this as a wake-up call to the providers that they need to strengthen and harden their sites.
So, take the steps you can to protect your credentials and yourself, select longer and more complex, never repeat them and change them intermittently. Be careful of phishing attacks and as much as possible make sure your provider has the best security he can to protect you. One final step you can take, which is increasing in popularity, is to use a password manager. There are a number of very good ones in the market and these can help you; manage the multiple passwords you have today, measure the effectiveness of your used passwords and in some cases it even takes over the task of not just managing these passwords but hiding them behind an additional “super password “security layer.
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