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SECURITY

Password Hacks (Part 1) - Stop Thieves Taking Data And Protect Yourself

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8/11/2012 11:05:53 AM

They may be annoying but passwords are necessary to protect your data and that is why criminal gangs are hell bent on getting hold of them. David Crookes looks at the murky world of password hacking and considers how you can protect yourself

Description: Password Hacks

Password Hacks

The Hangover 2 is not an especially funny film. It tends to go over the same ground as the far fresher feeling debut. However, there is one line that made us chortle: a throwaway comment that tickled us, because it's so true.

International criminal Mr Chow, who is being pursued by the FBI, Bangkok PD, Interpol and MSNBC, has to input a password in order to transfer a large pot of cash as part of a plot-crucial dodgy deal. He begins to tap at the keyboard.

 “Your password is ‘baloney’?" asks one of the other characters, surprised. “Well," says Mr Chow, pulling his face, “it used to be just 'baloney', but now they make you add number."

Passwords are the mainstay of the online world. An often tiresome rituals in which your username is paired up with another word or random selection of digits in order to gain access to all manner of different services, be shopping, banking or something more offbeat.

We don't like to give our passwords away. To do so would open our accounts to activity that we would not wish to take place. The worst that could happen is that your money or identity is stolen. The least is that someone writes a silly comment via your own account on your Facebook wall.

Description: The PlayStation Network was hacked last year, with millions of passwords involved
The PlayStation Network was hacked last year, with millions of passwords involved

Sometimes, though, those passwords are divulged, very often by our own stupidity Other times, they get into the wrong hands due to the mischievous nature of hackers who gain access to individual accounts or manage to infiltrate online systems and find a bunch of passwords they can make use of.

Remember last summer when PlayStation 3 users suddenly found a major problem? When the PlayStation Network ended up being taken down because, as Sony later admitted, the personal details of more than 70 million users could have been stolen by a hacker? As one of the largest hack cases in history, it was big, big news.

Description: Sometimes, though, those passwords are divulged, very often by our own stupidity Other times, they get into the wrong hands due to the mischievous nature of hackers

Sometimes, though, those passwords are divulged, very often by our own stupidity Other times, they get into the wrong hands due to the mischievous nature of hackers

Yet despite the PlayStation Network problems being a distant memory (last December, Michael Denny, the senior vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studio, said gamers had not been deterred from downloading games via the PS3 and that the number of users was back to where it was before the well-publicized crisis, which had caused the month-long Network closure), it wasn't the only company affected by such hacking, password-stealing activity.

At around the same time, another couple of high-profile companies had issues: Amazon and Play.com. The latter admitted that customer names and email addresses were leaked as a result of a security breach after users complained of receiving spam emails to addresses they use only to monitor their accounts on the site.

Description: http://www.develop-online.net/static/images/news/33118/5241_Michael%20Denny%20Inside.jpg?i=1256558991

Michael Denny, the senior vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studio

Now, however, it is time for other firms to feel the pain. More recently, eHarmony, LinkedIn and Last.fm fell prey to password hackers and it's clear it's a problem that refuses to go away, leading to worry among users and lots of inconvenience, not to mention a flurry of phishing emails, which attempt to capitalize on the problem.

During Sony's crisis, hackers had accessed names, addresses, countries, email addresses, birth dates, PSN and Priority usernames, passwords and online handles. That led to the company adding automated software monitoring, enhanced data protection and encryption, new firewalls and a better ability to detect software intrusions to help prevent future issues. The FBI was involved in investigating the source of the breach.

This time it's purely passwords that have been obtained from eHarmony, LinkedIn and Last.fm. It was estimated that 1.5 million of eHarmony's members' password hashes were published online for hackers to try to crack, but Becky Teraoka, eHarmony's corporate communications manager, said the passwords of affected users had been reset. “Please be assured that eHarmony uses robust security measures, including password hashing and data encryption, to protect our members' personal information," she wrote.

Stop Thieves Taking Data And Protect Yourself

According to security software company G-Data, you need to install high performance, resource-efficient security software using HTTP filters. A firewall and monitoring functions should be installed and enabled to protect again spyware and other threats.

An up-to-date spam filter will help to filter out unwanted and suspicious email before it reaches your inbox.

Description: Stop Thieves Taking Data And Protect Yourself

Stop Thieves Taking Data And Protect Yourself

Secure mobile devices - if you're browsing the internet via tablets or smartphones, or accessing social networking sites, emails and online banking, you must ensure you're doing so safely The same rules apply Security solutions such as G-Data Mobile-Security (for Android devices) are now available to protect your mobile devices and online identity

Strong passwords are paramount. Ideally use at least eight characters consisting of numbers, upper and lower-case letters and special characters

Description: LinkedIn - with 161 million worldwide users - wouldn't say how many users may have been affected, but figures of up to 6.5 million passwords posted on a Russian web forum were being mentioned.

LinkedIn - with 161 million worldwide users - wouldn't say how many users may have been affected, but figures of up to 6.5 million passwords posted on a Russian web forum were being mentioned.

Separate passwords should be created for each account, and should not be stored on the computer.

Spot phishing attacks by looking closely at the address line in the browser. This will reveal whether or not you are entering data into a bogus website. As with online banking, call up the site manually or via the Favorites list to log on to it. Never follow a suspicious link in an email or on a website.

LinkedIn - with 161 million worldwide users - wouldn't say how many users may have been affected, but figures of up to 6.5 million passwords posted on a Russian web forum were being mentioned.

One of the site's directors, Vicente Silvery, said, “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our members. We take the security of our members very seriously."

The frequency at which these attacks took place would suggest that associated parties are involved or at least that a common vulnerability is being exploited in order to retrieve these large numbers of user data, according to Bull-guard security

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