Category: Identity Theft

Hack-proof your passwords

Criminals are getting smarter. So should you.

Consumer Reports Magazine: January 2012

Illustration by: Stuart Bradford

More than half of U.S. adults have six or more password-protected accounts online, our latest survey shows. Who can remember the passwords? You try by keeping them short and sweet: your pet’s name and “123.” You use the same one for multiple accounts. And you keep them in your wallet for easy access.

You’re not alone. In our survey, 32 percent of respondents used a personal reference in their passwords, almost 20 percent used the same password for more than five accounts, and 23 percent kept a written list of passwords in an insecure place. The national survey of 1,000 adults was conducted in October by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Trouble is, such practices expose you to the kinds of attacks that today’s hackers have been launching against websites. When hackers get your passwords, they gain access to your accounts.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn the best and worst types of passwords, how to create strong ones, where to store them for safekeeping, and—better yet—how to remember them.

A growing threat

Your chances of having a password stolen on a given day are probably slim, but the risk is real and growing. To understand why, you need to know how today’s hacker works. No, he doesn’t sit in a basement, attempting to sign into your account by pounding away at a keyboard until he stumbles upon your password. Most likely, he breaks into an insecure website that has many passwords on file, including yours. Then he finds out many of those passwords using highly sophisticated password-cracking software and a souped-up computer. Here are some of the most troubling developments we’ve discovered:

 

Stealing Social Security Numbers!

Online Safety Resources–Kids and Parents

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SAFEKIDS.COM   •   SAFETEENS.COM   •   NETFAMILYNEWS.ORG

  • A COMPREHENSIVE DIRECTORY OF ONLINE SAFETY RESOURCES Keeping kids safe on their Internet journey and encouraging responsible behavior online is a common goal of parents and teachers everywhere. This frequently updated directory provides easy access to hundreds of resources that have been developed worldwide.
  • SAFEKIDS.COM One of the Net’s oldest and most comprehensive Internet safety sites, operated by ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid
  • NETFAMILYNEWS.ORG As a public service for parents, educators, and everyone interested in young people’s use of technology, NetFamilyNews is the "community newspaper" of a vital interest community. Founded in 1999 by ConnectSafely.org co-director Anne Collier as a nonprofit
  • CYBERTIPLINE.COM The Congressionally mandated CyberTipline is a reporting mechanism for cases of child sexual exploitation including child pornography, online enticement of children for sex acts, molestation of children outside the family, sex tourism of children, child v
  • CENTER FOR SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE INTERNET USE Operated by Internet educator and author Nancy Willard, CSRIU provides excellent advice and analysis about cyberbullying and other aspects of online safety.
  • CHILDNET INTERNATIONAL A UK-based nonprofit organization, Childnet provides online safety education to youth, parents, educators, and policymakers with a great deal of input from young people themselves. Its long list of resources include a powerful short film on cyberbullying,
  • ENOUGH IS ENOUGH A non-profit organization dedicated to protecting kids from pornography as well as sexual predators. They tend to take a bit more of a rules-based approach than we do, but we respect their commitment and passion for keeping kids safe.
  • FAMILY ONLINE SAFETY INSTITUTE The Family Online Safety Institute is an international non-profit organization that facilitates the meeting of thought leaders in technology and policy in order to find innovative solutions for children’s online safety.
  • GETNETWISE.ORG Run by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Internet Education Foundation, GetNetWise is one of the Web’s most comprehensive collections of information about children’s Internet safety and family computer security. Includes a searchable database of parent
  • NETSMARTZ.ORG Online-safety education for kids, parents, educators, and law enforcement from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (which also operates CyberTipline.com)
  • SAFETEENS.COM The sister site to SafeKids.com with Net safety advice for teens and parents of teens from Larry Magid, co-director of ConnnectSafely.org

The Internet and Photo Privacy