Another day, another hack. People are getting hacked or becoming compromised in their digital lives at an alarming rate, and it seems as though that’s not going to slow down any time soon.
Just earlier this month, it was revealed that hackers had gained access to millions of Twitter accounts, and not by hacking into Twitter itself. No, instead they simply gathered passwords from previous hacks and matched them with usernames.
With hackers on the rampage, there are plenty of things to keep in mind – things that will help you protect yourself and your data online, and ensure that you retain full control over your personal information.
How exactly are hackers getting your data?
Often when we think of the word “hacking” we imagine pages and pages of code, hours spent cracking away on a computer, and discovering a way to get around having to use passwords. In reality, however, hackers can simply write a program that will look through information to find what they need to log in to a user’s account. That’s without having to spend hours at the computer combing through code.
“Hackers will most often parse existing breach data for emails, usernames, and passwords, and then attempt to reuse those credentials on popular websites,” Alexander Heid, Chief Risk Officer at SecurityScorecard, tells TechRadar. “To achieve this, hackers will make use of ‘checker’ scripts. These are scripts which are designed to test batches of username:password combinations on specific websites to identify valid accounts. These scripts exist for every imaginable service, and are constantly updated and circulate within the hacker underground.”
So, what does that mean? When you create a new account somewhere, you likely reuse at least some information for its creation. Even if you’re not using the same username or password, information like answers to security questions or other details can all help hackers gain access to your account.
Of course, some hackers are a little more hands on. That’s where malware comes in. Malware is basically a type of software designed specifically to infect your computer, often in an attempt to steal your personal information.
A prominent form of malware is a keylogger, which basically tracks everything you type and then sends that information back to the hacker who wrote the malware code. That makes it way too easy for hackers to gain access to your accounts; all they have to do is wait until you log on to something and they’ll be able to do the same.
There’s one more method that hackers often use to get username and password information – phishing emails. These are basically emails designed to look like they’re from a company like Apple or Amazon, and trick you into willingly giving over your information.
Often times, there’s a link in these emails that will take you to an official-looking website where you’re supposed to log in to an account. Only, the website isn’t official, it just looks like it is. Log in, and you’re basically handing your information over to whoever sent the email.
How can you stay safe?
Now that you know how hackers are getting people’s personal information, it’s sure to be a little easier to protect yourself. The first thing to talk about is passwords.
As mentioned, hackers are often able to use previous data breaches to find passwords, then find accounts on other sites and use the same username:password combination to get in. That should be far too easy for hackers to get into an account, but in reality, people continue to use the same password, or the same few passwords, for their entire digital lives.
The solution? Come up with a new password for every account you have. Yes, it’s a pain, but the fact is that creating unique and secure passwords for each of your accounts is an important step in remaining secure online. Not only that, but it could help save you time in the long run; if one of your accounts is hacked, having unique passwords prevents you from having to change your password for all of your accounts.