These days, if hackers crack your password, it feels like they’ve stolen a bit of your soul.
Your cyber soul, that is.
Passwords are now the portals to our electronic selves — protecting our social-media handles, email accounts and financial records. In other words, they’re guarding our relationships, convos and cash.
It’s a lot of responsibility for one multi-digit conglomeration of letters, numbers and symbols.
And it’s easier than you might think for a hacker to bust open. A whopping 90 percent of passwords are vulnerable to hacking, according to global risk-management firm Deloitte.
But changing your password regularly, and using separate passwords for your various accounts, helps foil cyber thieves.
That’s why Intel and McAfee banded together this year to create national Change Your Password Day. On May 7, the tech companies are urging internet users to take a moment to learn about what makes for stronger passwords and to spend a few seconds securing their accounts.
The headaches start when hackers get encrypted data from a site and manage to decode the passwords and usernames. Although the site itself might not contain sensitive data, such as credit card numbers and addresses, cyber thieves may try the same password/username combos on banking or ecommerce sites, for example.
“It's likely that the hackers are either going to try to use the passwords themselves to hack into accounts on other e-commerce websites, or to sell the information to third parties” who have the same purpose, said Craig Newman, an attorney with New York law firm Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP, who advises clients on corporate cyber-security issues.
Just last week, cyber thieves stole the passwords of 50 million LivingSocial members worldwide. The attack on the company’s software also yielded the names, e-mail addresses and birth dates of the users, according to The Washington Post.
It’s common for people to use the same password for a number of accounts. That tendency got Mat Honan, a Wired writer, in serious cyber trouble last August. Hackers cracked his Amazon and Apple accounts, leading them to his email, social-media pages and computer data.
“In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed,” he wrote. “First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.”
According to Deloitte, 74 percent of internet users have the same password for multiple accounts. And, since users have 25 password-protected accounts on average, security breeches can mushroom if hackers get their hands on just one username-password combo.
It may be a #firstworldproblem, but changing your password regularly is now a necessity of life for many of us, as the users in the video found above.
Tech-security experts say you should try to keep your banking, social-media and email passwords separate. That way, if your email account is compromised, for example, hackers won’t have access to your cash or personal information too.
It may be counter-intuitive but to make your passwords stronger, focus on length, not complexity. The password “Br3ak1ead&7” would take a computer three days to crack, at 1,000 guesses per second. Meanwhile, the seemingly simple “thunder showers before sunset” password, would take the same computer, guessing at the same rate, 550 years to crack, according to Intel.
Put your password to the test by playing Intel’s “Password Win,", where you can also view more security tips or to enter to win McAfee software or one of three Ultrabooks.
And, when you’re done, join the other internet users worldwide who are letting the hackers know, “I just #ChangedMyPassword.”
More Tips & Tricks to Protect Your Devices from iQ:
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- How Safe Is Your Phone? If Sergery Brin Get Hacked, So Can You