Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Online Passwords and Account Security

I just came across this absolutely frightening account on Wired of a man--a techie--who lost access to his email, his Amazon account, his Apple ID, the entire contents of his laptop and Apple devices--all due to some hackers who were bored. What scares me the most about this is that it happened to a guy who is "with it" when it comes to technology. He writes about it for Gizmodo, for crying out loud. I immediately started looking at my own security setup to see if the same thing could happen to me. It couldn't--mine's a bit different--but it's not out of the realm of possibility that there's another, easy way to get past the security I have set up.

When you get down to it, I'm tech-savvy, but not nearly as tech-savvy as some of the other people out there. Most of the time, I just take an approach of security in anonymity. There are billions of people out there--what are the odds that a hacker is going to take interest in me? I realize this is a really bad approach to take, but at the same time, there are so many ways for hackers to get access to my information, that it's just easier for me not to worry about it.

That's not completely true, of course. I take care with my passwords--choosing some really outlandish ones for certain sites. But it's articles like this that remind me what I think is an unimportant site might end up being key. Lose access to my AppleID? What's the worst that could happen? Lose some of my progress in my iPad games? Then I read this, and I discover it's not that straightforward. Hackers are getting skilled at following you from one account to another, it seems. Leveraging one account to get more information about you so they can go to a different account, and just follow the breadcrumbs along.

And the more public you are online--the more valuable your information becomes--the likelier you are to become the focus of hacker attacks. Thankfully, I'm not at that point yet, but that also doesn't rule out the random acts of hacking. In the case on the Wired article, the hacker had just liked the guy's Twitter handle. He had no idea the man was connected to Gizmodo and other tech places.

I don't know what the takeaway from this is. Certainly that we need to take more care with our online data--awareness will help improve security. But can you ever be 100% secure? I don't think so. In the end, it's important to remain vigilant and do all you can.

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