November 28, 2014

Key to computer safety: Change your password frequently

ComputerNebraska computer users may be a bit skittish after Russian hackers made international news last week by breaking into the database of a Midwestern securities firm. They reportedly stole 1.2 billion user names and passwords belonging to some 500-million email addresses.

Information security expert Mike Masino says Nebraskans can do something fairly simple to keep their computers safe.

“Honestly, changing your passwords at regular intervals and not using the same log-ins for different sites, that’s your best case scenario,” Masino says. “It’s just a numbers game.”

The hacking of Milwaukee-based Hold Securities is said to be the largest-ever security breach. Still, Masino says the big score by Russian hackers isn’t that unusual.

“To be completely honest, this kind of stuff goes on all the time,” Masino says. “I think the thing that’s making this news is the size of the data store that was discovered. It was so many accounts.”

The billion-plus stolen passwords and user names reportedly came from more than 420,000 websites. Masino emphasizes, change your passwords frequently to stay on the safe side.

“If they steal billions of user names and passwords, it’s going to take them a while to go through that list and exploit all those,” Masino says. “If you change your password every two or three months, you’ve just reduced their window that they have to use your information down to that amount of time.”

Other tips to stay safe from hackers: update your anti-virus software routinely, don’t click on links you didn’t expect to receive, and keep close tabs on the privacy settings on your social media pages.