Advice On How To Protect Your Online Profiles From Hackers

This is a guest post by Robert Coulter.

Earlier this month, mega social media site LinkedIn announced that their system had been hit by hackers and an estimated 6.5 million passwords had been lost. In another recent announcement, Facebook estimated that 600,000 logins every 24 hour period on the site are people trying to hack into other people’s accounts to access personal information.
Online Profiles Security

With our personal information more exposed than ever via social media profiles, online banking sites, and more, one would expect individuals to take rigorous efforts to protect that data. And yet a just released ElcomSoft study estimates that just 25% of people regularly change their password. The good news is that protecting your personal data doesn’t have to be hard, here are some tips to get you started.
  1. Don’t overly share your personal life: It’s easy with social media to share more than necessary. Even things like your birthday, your family member’s names, where you go (check-ins) and your interests should be considered before making that information public. If you have online banking, chances are most of the security questions are “what city were you born in?” or “mother’s maiden name?” in cases where you need to change your password. Therefore, a determined hacker can easily find that information on a social media profile and get access to your sensitive accounts.
  2. Tighten up your privacy settings: All social media sites have privacy and security settings that allow you to tighten up your profile. Consumer Report recently did a study that indicated 13 million people do not use or pay any attention to their privacy settings on Facebook. While in the grand scheme of Facebook users, that’s not a large percentage, it should be the top priority for social media users.
  3. Do not choose obvious passwords: It should go without saying at this point that your password should never be your birthday, your phone number, or your pet or child’s name. Similarly, strings of characters such as 123456 are never a good idea; yet the security firm Rapid7 analyzed the hacked passwords from LinkedIn and found this to be among the most common permutation of passwords. Assorted strings of numbers after a short word, such as the name of the site or your name, are also easily decodable, Jill1234. The vast majority of professional hackers use automated programs to break passwords – thus, it’s the complexity, rather than the obscurity, that gives you security. Use combinations of numbers, letters, and allowable symbols.
  4. Never use the same password for everything: One of the most common mistakes is using the same password for everything. This doubles the risk posed by hackers – if someone breaks into your email account and can deduce your bank accounts, your social media profiles, and other services and then access those because all your passwords are the same, the cleanup process and the potential for loss just increased exponentially.
  5. Set up a schedule to change your passwords: Change your passwords frequently. Consider setting up a reminder monthly to rotate your passwords, or at the very least quarterly.
  6. If you need assistance remembering your passwords, there’s an app for that: Don’t store passwords on a file on your computer entitled “passwords” or on a sticky note in your wallet or desk. Instead, look at apps such as Kee Pass or 1Password that automate the process and use the best encryption methods for managing your passwords.

About the author:

Robert Coulter works in the security industry offering multi-factor authentication solutions for companies who need increased security protection for their clients.

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