Hacking, hacking, hacking!

It seems that everyone and their brother is being hacked at the moment. Over the past 3 months there have been over 150 companies across the USA and EU which have admitted to being hacked. So what can you do to protect yourself?

computer screen with terminal promptLately it has become commonplace to read the news and read about yet another hack which has happened affecting a big name brand. From H3G to Tesco Bank, and everything in between, any company or organisation with an IT system which is exposed to the Internet is at risk. So how do you, as a consumer protect yourself from having your personal information stolen once a company you use has been hacked.
Here are some simple ideas that will help you to stop the attackers from gaining access to your personal information and using it to harm you or your loved ones.

    1. Use different passwords for EVERY SINGLE ACCOUNT.
      • A lot of people in the IT world say this a lot, and a lot of people moan that it is impossible to do. But that is not the case.
      • Password managers, which are pieces of software that store your passwords for you, can save your passwords so they can be as complicated as possible, but without you having to remember more than one password. They store all of the information in an encrypted form and normally store this information in a way which means you are the only one which can access it, and only with your password.
      • Some people use one complicated password and then change one or two characters for other accounts, and think this is enough. It is not enough! This is something which hackers can easily do as well, and then they have access to those accounts as well! Only ever use completely unique passwords on your accounts.
      • Believe it or not, despite the warnings in the past, writing down your individual passwords, as long as you keep the list safe, whilst not ideal, and not something I would recommend, is something you could do in place of a password manager for a short period of time if you had no other choice.
      • If you do write your passwords down, don’t make it obvious it is a password. Use other letters and numbers to make the password look like something else. Maybe write some text, so the password is every second letter, or every third word, or similar. This will help keep your passwords safer, even if you do lose that all important piece of paper.
    2. Ensure two factor authentication is enabled everywhere you can.Pen for graphic tablet
      • Two factor authentication uses another device, such as your mobile phone, or another phone to communicate with you a unique code which works only for a short period of time and only for your account. Sometimes this is done via an app, sometimes via text message, sometimes via a phone call. However it is done, it is incredibly safe, and secure, and you should enable it everywhere if at all possible.
    3. Make sure no one is watching you when you enter your password.
      • Like your bank or credit card pin code, make sure your password cannot be seen by anyone when you enter it onto your computer. You should protect the keyboard like you protect the number pad at the ATM.
    4. Do not to use unsecured wifi or computers you don’t control to enter your passwords.
      • Entering your password when you are on an unsecured wifi or a computer you can’t control, can result in your password being compromised.
      • If you do have to use a computer you can’t control or an unsecured wifi, then change your password as soon as you get back onto a secure network or computer you can control.
    5. Reset your passwords every month for sensitive accounts and every 3 months for everything else.
      • Sensitive passwords are passwords which allow people to access your bank information, card details, or anything financial in nature, as well as email accounts where you receive information from any financial organisation or any password reset emails are sent.
      • Resetting your passwords regularly is important to ensure that if a password is captured during a hack 6 months ago, it will not be used on the account by the time those 6 months have passed.
    6. Never use the same password twice.
      • Using the same passwords on different accounts seems like a good idea right? But if one of those accounts gets hacked, then you’ve granted those hackers to every account you use that password on, as they will take weeks and months to attack your account.
      • Using unique passwords every single time is not difficult if you use a password manager or keep a list of your passwords.
    7. Never keep a reset password.
      • When you reset a password and they generate a random password for you, it has been sent to you over an email. Emails are like letters, they pass through loads of different places, and at any of those places someone could open it and read it then close it again without you knowing. So if you reset your password and get an automatically generated password, then make sure you change it the first time you login using the new password.

 

Keeping yourself and your passwords safe is more important now than ever. It is only going to get even more important as time goes on as well. It is your responsibility to keep your passwords safe.

As hacking becomes more commonplace, you will find more companies do more to try and make their passwords more secure. However, that password in itself has to be secure otherwise nothing anyone else does will help!