CHARLOTTE, NC, March 6, 2018 – Full disclosure, there are people more able to write this column than me. Like almost anyone else who is older than the age of three and doesn’t work for Microsoft or Apple, technology has long since passed us by. Passwords, usernames and cyber sercurity are just frustrating impediments to what we want to to do.
That said, a user-friendly, simple-to-use, free security tool called “Pwned Passwords” may be a way to discover which, if any, of your passwords, has been leaked or compromised.
If you are like most people these days, especially the uninitiated, you prefer using the same usernames and passwords as frequently as possible to reduce the amount of mind-numbing clutter that pervades our lives.
Enter all manner of security measures which now require an eight-figure password followed by a number and then a symbol including at least one upper case letter and pretty soon you’ve created an entirely new alphabet that you have already forgotten by the time you are ready to use it.
Pwned Passwords comes in to allow you to check the security of your online accounts.
In August of last year, Troy Hunt, a regional director at Microsoft, Pwned Passwords became a way to provide simple access to users to see if their online information was floating ni cyber space.
Just six months after its inauguration, Hunt began including more information. The site now features more than a half-billion passwords that may have been hacked on sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, DropBox, and Gawker to mention a few.
According to CNET, an American media website that publishes consumer electronics information, there are some breaches that consumers may never have even heard of that still possess your personal information.
CNET began in 1994 by Halsey Minor and Shelby Bonnie to produce content for radio and television as well as its website. Today, after being acquired in 2008, it operates as a brand of CBS Interactive.
In today’s world, it is easy for even the most sophisticated computer user to accidentally or mistakenly click an icon or an e-mail that can send malware screaming through your computer services in mere seconds.
Breaches are occurring with increasing regularity and even happen to major businesses.
In Charlotte, NC recently, the Mecklenburg County Tax office was at the merch of foreign hackers. It took nearly a month to correct the system while local taxpayers were at the mercy of a hidden virus that inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people.
Late last year one security research firm located 1.4 billion usernames and passwords floating unencrypted through cyberspace on something called the “Dark Web.” So pervasive was the information that even an unsophisticated hacker was able to access the personal accounts of others.
For individual convenience, many, if not most, people use the same password for multiple accounts which is a godsend for potential cyber-villains.
By going to Pwned Password you can find out if a given password has ever been part of a major data breach and which ones have hacked it.
Change that password monthly
CNET warns that once a password is compromised, it is forever in the loop and can be targeted again on other accounts using the same codes. They advise against searching for current passwords since that can lead to further third-party hacks.
Thus, CNET suggests that users only check old passwords that are no longer in use.
Recently, as a test a writer did a search for a password he had been using on a regular basis since high school. He found it was, on 135 separate occasions, part of a breach.
Obviously, with so many people going online today, it is highly unlikely that all of those hacks related to that single individual, but the problem is determining whether or not they are yours or someone else’s.
One way to solve further problems is to use the services of a password manager.
Password managers can help
1Password is already providing Pwned Password as part of its monthly service. 1Password stores all of your password and usernames in a virtual vault on a single secure website. You no longer have to keep searching through scraps of paper and torn off envelopes to find out which password is correct for any given site.
There is an annual charge of $2.99 per month.
Another service called LastPass provides similar services for $2 a month. LastPass currently searches only for leaked Usernames and not Passwords.
As mentioned above, all of this is probably common knowledge for techies, but in the world of Baby Boomers and anyone else younger than 5-years of age, hopefully, this can be some source of security for at least a day or two until the next cyber-crisis erupts.
Your browser also stores your passwords, and you can review them using Keychain. Keychain is on Google Chrome. By accessing settings on your toolbar (find the three vertical dots, left-hand upper corner). Click on settings > advanced settings > passwords and forms > manage passwords
Click on Manage Passwords and search for the site you have forgotten your last saved password for. Click the ‘eye” to see the password.
And the most improtant thing we can do is create strong passwords and change them frequently. That way, if your password does make it to cyberspace, it doesn’t work anyway.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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