Have you heard of the term “pwned”? Last week Chris shared a news item with me about a recently discovered list of email addresses and passwords. These are for sale on hacker websites. If you are on this list or any of the other lists of stolen emails, you have been pwned. This list, “Collection 1”, consists of 772.9 million unique emails along with 21.2 million passwords. You might wonder why there are so many more email addresses than passwords. That is because so many people with multiple email addresses use the same password for everything.
Don’t do that!
A little history about the word “Pwned”:
The Urban Dictionary postulates that Pwned came into use after one of the designers for the game World of Warcraft typed “has been pwned” instead of “has been owned”. Another Urban Dictionary contributor says it is actually a commonly used chess term, where you use your pawn to check your opponent. Regardless of the various definitions, this term means “you are dominated”.
Head over to Have I Been Pwned to find out if your email address is compromised. Many people use different email addresses for work and home. If you have multiple emails, be sure to check each of them.
This site will also tell you on which websites or apps the data breach has occurred. (My email is compromised.) I immediately changed the password for both accounts. It also told me that the breach came from my Dropbox account. I then changed my login information on Dropbox as well. Another breach occurred on my LinkedIn account so I changed my info there too.
5 Quick Steps to keep your information safe:
- Change your password on each account frequently. I change my passwords every 3-6 weeks.
- Change your password on financial accounts even more frequently – at least every two weeks.
- Never use the same password again!
- MOST IMPORTANT: Use a password that is hard to guess. Make sure you use at least 10 characters. You should use at least one of each of the following: an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, a number, and a special character. I always end with punctuation too. Swap out letters for numbers or special characters. Lately, I’ve been using book titles to craft secure passwords. So “The New Relationship Marketing” would become “th3NewRel@t1onshipMarket1ng;” (Check it out. It’s a great book by Mari Smith.)
- Next, always keep track of your passwords using a secure system. I use a password-protected spreadsheet. (Why don’t I recommend a cloud-based password manager? I’ve recently heard of two people who lost access to their online password tracking system. They had to go to each of their emails and apps to change their passwords. Each One!)
Let me know if you have an effective tip for setting up great, secure passwords.
Please forward this to your colleagues who never change their passwords.
Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.
Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.
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