With the recent onslaught of hacking attacks against Sony, PBS, Fox, and other large organizations, it is a good time to point out some basic security practices that will help protect you and your information. Remember that when you are not paying for a service, such as the recently compromised Playstation Network, your personal information is typically exchanged for the free service. This can sometimes only mean your first and last name, and other times it can be where you live and even your social security number. If and when that data gets stolen against your will, you will be left feeling vulnerable and a potential victim of identity theft.
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to make your password a string of characters, special characters, numbers, and a mixture of upper and lower-case letters. The reason for this is because it will nearly eliminate the chance of a brute force attempt to recover your password. Brute force attempts use huge databases of common dictionary words, and slight variations of them (think ‘flower’ and ‘flower1’), to hammer your account until the right password is guessed. This is very easy to prevent by using the suggestion above. In the ‘flower’ example we can modify this password to ‘f!0W3R%’ and the strength of the password is greatly increased.
A common practice among many, many people is to use the same or a similar password for ALL of their online accounts. This is incredibly dangerous because if your password is compromised in one account, and it’s used for all of your others, your other accounts could be locked out with a new password the hacker created for them before you even realized what happened. As you probably guessed, the way to protect yourself against this is simple…use different passwords! Senior U.S. government officials fell victim to this attack just days ago by an elaborate phishing scheme originating from China.
Phishing is a very common attack hackers use against innocent people every day. These attacks are most efficiently used after some of your personal information has already been obtained. Let’s say that your username and password to SonyPictures.com was one of the 1 million that were stolen yesterday. The hacker already knows this information about you, crafts an email that looks like it came from Sony, and asks for more personal information. You think the email looks authentic and you oblige with your credit card number and street address to get the free movie the email is promising. Tomorrow you check your bank account balance and it returns $0.00.
Protecting yourself and your information is not difficult to do. Little things like using multiple strong passwords on a daily basis and being skeptical when someone is asking for personal information, amount to a world of difference between you and another potential victim when you are the target of a cybercriminal. Be smart, be safe, and be weary of everything you see and do on the internet, especially when running an ecommerce website!