While you were sleeping, CNET broke one of the biggest internet security stories of the year: Russian hackers have nabbed more than 1.2 billion internet password and user names from over 420,000 websites. This is ten times larger than the Target security breach.
According to Hold Security, the company that discovered the breach, “Whether you are a computer expert or a technophobe, as long as your data is somewhere on the World Wide Web, you may be affected by this breach. Your data has not necessarily been stolen from you directly. It could have been stolen from the service or goods providers to whom you entrust your personal information, from your employers, even from your friends and family.”
The Tech Therapist: Enough Is Enough
I’ve been in this business for nearly 20 years now, and in all that time, I’ve consistently heard complaints about complex, difficult to remember passwords. People don’t like having to remember combinations of 15+ characters – especially when they contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
Well, I’m sorry, but that’s just too bad. You can’t have it both ways. Easy to remember passwords are indeed convenient – for you, and for the bad guys. The data that you’re protecting so lightly – such as your social media profiles – is often the same exact data that’s required to get into the stuff you’re not so laid back about: things like your banking and investment accounts. How many times have you been asked to enter your Mother’s maiden name or city of your birth?
Change your passwords today. Don’t use the same password for everything. It’s time to start taking some personal responsibility for your online security. You can’t depend on the websites to do everything for you. As this story unfolds, we’re going to see that no industry is immune from this type of hack; every place your personal information is stored online is vulnerable.
Each unique user name and password combination you use is an extra layer of protection between you and the bad guys. You need strong passwords, and you need to change them frequently. The time has passed when we can act surprised that massive data breaches are happening. This is our new normal. These attacks will continue and you need to take action to protect yourself.