It’s time to change your email password.
On May 4, 2016, a hacker stole hundreds of millions of email account passwords and information and – get this – sold the batch for $1. Calling himself “The Collector,” he is behind what could very well be the largest email security breach in history. With email accounts compromised from Gmail, Outlook/Hotmail, Yahoo, and many others, there’s a possibility your email address is part of this collection.
Cyber security can give us a false sense of security if we’re not vigilant to what’s going on. Using easy to guess passwords (birthdays, addresses, etc.) or common words (such as “football” or “basketball”) make the hacker’s job a lot easier. Instead, longer and more complex passwords are more secure than simple, short ones.
One thing you can do to make your email password even more secure is to activate the two-factor authorization. What this does is that, before your password can be changed on a new device, you will receive a call or text message with a security code to input. So, if your phone isn’t with the person attempting to get into your account (i.e. hackers), they won’t be able to access it.
In order to do that, go to your email settings and activate it right away! You also have the option to have your device remember it’s you, so you only have to do the security code the first time.
Besides taking security precautions, make sure you’re also using your email wisely.
Email is a great way to send files to friends, families, and coworkers. However, if an attachment looks suspicious at all, do not open it! It’s possible that one of your contacts has been hacked, and they are unaware of these bogus emails being sent from their account. So if you aren’t expecting an attachment, or think one is suspicious, ask before you open. Some attachments may release malware or spyware into your computer, compromising your own contacts as well as your personal data.
Next, beware of phishing scams. These are fake emails and businesses that lure people in to gain their personal information. Remember, never give out passwords, credit card numbers, or your social security number through email or another unsecured or untrusted site. In fact, unless you know the for sure who you are emailing, do not give any personal information at all (even if you do know them, sending personal information can still be dangerous if your account does end up being hacked).
Changing your password regularly is another good way to avoid getting hacked. Use a combination of letters, numbers, upper and lower cases, and symbols. This way, the chances of someone guessing your password is greatly reduced. Also, don’t use the same password for every website you visit. Since many people use the same password for multiple platforms, hackers that gain access to one of your passwords may think it’s the same on other sites (i.e. bank account), so keeping your passwords different can prevent this easy access.
When handling sensitive information such as credit card and social security numbers, you work hard not to flaunt it out in public and to keep it as safe from prying eyes as possible. Your email and online passwords should be taken care of with equal interest. Cyber security is essential for everyone with an online presence, no matter how small it may be. Protect your information. Change (and strengthen) your passwords.