How easy is it to hack your online passwords?

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If you think that safeguarding yourself from being hacked online is as easy as changing a few passwords and installing the latest anti virus software or app then you’re going to be in for a shock.

Anyone who uses a computer, smartphone or tablet connected to the internet is a potential target for hackers.

According to research carried out by internet security firm Symantec in 2013, 65% of all internet users worldwide have been a victim of cybercrime in one form or another.

The threat from being hacked is very real and if you’ve read the story about hacking victim Matt Homan, you’ll see how easily and quickly someone can hack your online passwords.

According to Matt, the problems first occurred when his Google account was compromised and then deleted. This followed someone taking control of his Twitter account and using it to post homophobic and racist messages.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the hackers then managed to gain access into his Apple ID and remotely erase all of the data on his computer, iPhone and iPad. Every single file gone. Just like that. Every photo, document, music file, vanished. Every memory and moment of his life which he had stored online, some of his most precious digital items, gone forever.

This epic hacking attack made Matt realise that he had in fact left himself very vulnerable but in all fairness how many of us leave ourselves wide open to such attacks?

Speaking after the incident, Matt explained how through a variety of not so secure passwords, many of his online profiles and accounts were daisy chained together, which meant that gaining access to one account, quickly and easily lead to the hackers gaining access to another account. And another. And another, and so it went on until it was too late.

Matt Homan was a victim of what is known as social engineering.

What is social engineering?

hacker

Social engineering is the process whereby a hacker can obtain access to passwords and confidential data by using information posted to say your Facebook, Twitter or other online accounts.

The worst thing is that sometimes this can be done with remarkable ease. Even if you think your online passwords are secure, chances are they’re probably not.

Hackers use social engineering to obtain public information about things like your children’s names, the name of your pet dog, the first school you attended, the name of your favourite football team, your date of birth etc.

How many of you reading this have a password combination of any of the aforementioned and say the year you were born?

In some cases, hackers may be able to guess your password just off the information you share online, but in others they can add all your information to automated programs that will then generate them with a variety of possible passwords, we’re talking about hundreds if not thousands of combinations until they finally manage to find the right one.

And before you think is all pretty far fetched then take a look at some of the most popular passwords used in 2013 – most popular being “123456”, followed by “password” and “abc123”. Hardly inspires you with confidence, does it?

What can you do to protect your online passwords?

lock password

Well first up, don’t use any of the passwords mentioned above.

Don’t make it easy for hackers by using passwords that include say your childs name, the name of your cat or any other personal information like this.

Instead, DO use alpha-numeric passwords that include a mixture of upper and lowercase letters.

Of course this will make it more difficult for someone to hack but it may also result in you having problems remembering your own password!

If this occurs, then you should consider using a secure automated password protection software, such as LastPass or something similar.

What programs or apps such as LastPass do is safeguard your online passwords by automatically generating different, and very complex alpha numeric passwords for each of your online accounts. You then have one master password for your LastPass account which grants you entry to each of your online accounts, meaning that you don’t have to remember multiple passwords as Lastpass will do that for you

Now the  important thing to remember here is that the master password obviously needs to be really secure and you would be extremely vulnerable should this ever get hacked. However, providing you choose a smart, extra, extra secure password for your master password and follow the guidelines above then you should be OK.

It is also recommended to use services such as Google’s 2-step authentication service on your Gmail, Google+, YouTube or any other Google accounts you may have.

All of the above is just advice and it is recommended to do your own research and look into different free and premium services to help protect your online data and information.

The important thing to remember is that you want to make it as difficult as possible for someone to hack your online passwords. Don’t take shortcuts and stay safe and secure online at all times.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. On the topic of passwords – most people fall into one or both of the most common traps:

    using an easy to remember password (such as “password” or 123456789)
    using the same password for every site

    A more elegant solution goes something like this:

    Pick a song that you will never get out of your head. The example I will use here is “If” by Bread. Write down the first letters of a line in the song-

    If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words, then why can’t I paint you?

    Most sites also require a mix of numbers and letters, upper and lower case so a thousand can become 1000 or 10Oo or any combination

    If the password formula permits symbols (many don’t) “then” can become >

    If you are srsly n2 txt “why” can become y and “you” can become u

    so you base password becomes IaPP10OoW>YcIpU

    now you can customize it for each website with 1,2 or 3 letters

    so your Thai Visa password might be IaPP10OoW>YcIpUTv

    your Hotmail password might be IaPP10OoW>YcIpUHm

    Your Bank of America password might be IaPP10OoW>YcIpUBa

    You will never forget your password, each one will be different and (unless someone knows your favourite song and this technique) knowing your wife’s birthday will never mean a hacker can get you again.

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