LinkedIn Security Breach: 8 Steps to Protect Your Passwords

With more than six million passwords leaked last week from the popular social media website LinkedIn, you might be rethinking how secure your own passwords are. There is debate over whether or not the security of the website is to blame or the regrettably obvious nature of many of its user’s passwords, but regardless of whose fault it is, you should do your part in keeping your own information safe from intruders. Taking these necessary precautions can be the difference between privacy and having your valued information shared with potentially malicious hackers.

  1. Choose wisely

    Never pick a password that’s easy to guess. If someone is attempting to hack into your account, the first things they’ll try are the obvious password ideas, including birthdays, names of your pets, and the ruefully obvious “password1.” Clues as to your password can be deduced from Facebook and other social networking outlets, so the more obscure you can make it, the better. Avoid common dictionary words and instead stick to nonsensical letter combinations and numbers. If you have trouble remembering them yourself, there are ways to keep passwords stored for reference that are virtually impossible to hack into, as described below.

  2. Be wary of “official” emails

    Occasionally, you may get an odd email from Gmail or another password-protected website you use trying to bait you into surrendering your password. This is called a phishing scam. They may include attachments baring the website’s official insignia to make you believe they are legitimately affiliated with them, but never trust an email that’s trying to weasel your password out of you. For example, you may get an email that says something to the effect of “Gmail is purging inactive members. If you are an active member wishing to keep your account, please respond with your log-in and password.” Such emails are not to be trusted or responded to. A clue that they are not from legitimate websites may rest in the actual email address. For example, “[email protected]” would not be a true Gmail representative’s email.

  3. Avoid spyware and malicious attachments

    If you receive an email from an unknown sender containing an attachment, do not open the attachment. It could contain a virus that sends your information to a third party, tracking your personal information and passwords. The same applies to spyware. Use caution when browsing the internet. Often, search engines such as Google will alert you if you’re trying to access a website that it deems insecure. Spyware is sometimes negotiated in the form of a pop-up asking you if you’d like a free PC scan to make sure there’s no viral activity on your computer. Do not fall for this ruse. The “free scan” may actually install dangerous software on your computer.

  4. There’s an app for that

    There are all kinds of apps around for both Android and iPhone that help you to safely store your passwords. However, one of the best apps for password protection is “1Password Pro,” which is currently available for Mac users only. For $11.99, 1Password Pro helps you to store passwords, serial numbers, credit card information, and other sensitive information in one secure place. It synchronizes with all of your devices and enables hardware-accelerated AES encryption and auto-Lock in the event that one of your devices gets stolen and the information has the potential to be compromised.

  5. Firefox Sync

    For password security integrated into your browser, download something like Firefox Sync, which enables your passwords and bookmarks to sync up with the browser on every device you use, home and work. Your data is kept secure from even Mozilla using a recovery key, which is generated from the moment you configure the software. This key, much like a real life key, accesses your personal, digital safe. You simply need to remember to log in or out when using Firefox Sync on your device such that others cannot browse using your information.

  6. Change them occasionally

    If you’ve kept the same password for the past five years, it may be time to swap it out. For sensitive accounts, you should change your passwords on a semi-frequent basis just to make sure that no infringement occurs. This simply adds another layer of security for your assets. If changing them often seems like a lot of trouble, consider the trouble it would take to gain back your security after someone breaks into your account. It can feel akin to having someone break into your house; you may feel violated and vulnerable. Taking a few extra steps to keep your passwords safe from hackers is worth the inconvenience and fuss, and will save you a lot of anguish in the long run.

  7. When breached, act quickly

    If you do find that one of your accounts has been hacked into, it’s best to go ahead and change all of your passwords even if they vary from account to account so that you don’t risk leaving a trail for your hacker to follow. If you maintain all of your accounts using the same password, all kinds of sensitive information can be extracted. In some cases, this could even allow a hacker to access your bank or credit card information, adding fraudulent charges to your account. If any of your hacked accounts contain credit card information, cancel the card in question immediately and have another one reissued.

  8. Keep them to yourself

    It may seem obvious, but don’t needlessly share your password with people, even with close friends. There’s no reason that they would need this information and while you might trust them, it opens the door for cyber intruders. Someone with good intentions may be browsing while logged into one of your accounts and use a website that is flagged for dangerous activity, for example. If you give your password to someone at work who shouldn’t have it and then that person makes some sort of error, you would be held accountable for it. Use common sense when divulging your password, if absolutely necessary.