Hacked! How to avoid it

Getting hacked is becoming more common because most of us are lazy with our passwords blaming it on information overload and the difficulty in remembering so many variations. However, our businesses, communication, and important documents have all mostly moved online where the threat of being hacked requires an aggressive protection strategy.

Another Day, Another Hack

My Amazon account was hacked the other day, and Amazon’s security was amazingly able to recognize the fraud and shut down my account. After realizing my credit card information was safe, my main concern was losing my carefully curated Universal Wish List and years of account history. I had to setup a new account and they moved my Universal Wish List, I lost my account history, but gained a valuable wake-up call since my password on the account was stupid.

The news is constantly present with stories of companies being hacked, such as the recent Zappos incident. I also recently read an amazing article in The Atlantic about an experience of having a Gmail account hacked. Because the author had a few friends at Google, he was able to recover years of precious emails and data, but most of us would not be so lucky. The article covers three action points that we should all implement to avoid having our accounts hacked.

What to do, Step 1: Gmail’s 2-Step Verification

The Gmail email system is superior to most in many ways, and this is no exception. If you use Gmail, do this now: click on this link and spend a few minutes adding this additional layer of security to your account. It eliminates the possibility that anyone can log into your account from anywhere other than your computer without a secondary verification (sent directly to your phone).

What to do, Step 2: LastPass.com

According to the author of The Atlantic article, the second step to prevent being hacked is to reconsider your password selection. The typical challenge with great passwords has been that the better the password, the harder it is to remember. One solution is to use a password management site like KeePass or LastPass which synchronizes across devices and browsers. LastPass is the solution I’m choosing since you can use extremely strong passwords which are secure from being hacked since only half of the password is stored on their server, half is stored on your local machine.

What to do, Step 3: Add Variety

At a minimum, be sure to change your passwords and use different passwords. According to the Google security experts:

Any site that matters needs its own password—one you don’t currently use for any other site, and that you have never used anywhere else. Using an important password anywhere else is just like mailing your house key to anyone who might be making a delivery, If you use your password in two places, it is not a valid password.

You should have a variety of passwords for a variety of levels of security. From small sites that have no personal information or financial details, up to your most important and secure sites that if hacked would wreak havoc. These sites should ideally have a unique and complicated password.

Spring Cleaning of Your Passwords

If I might know your password or be able to guess what it is, you should change it. Additionally, think about all of the people who you might have shared your password over the past few years. Do you want them reading your email? I have folders with lists of my client’s passwords, and year after year I continue to help with technical issues and log into their accounts using the same passwords. I had planned to change my after reading The Atlantic article but didn’t get around to it until my Amazon account was hacked. Don’t get hacked. Change your passwords now, while you are thinking about it.

Karin Conroy
Karin helps lawyers improve their online reputation. Her firm, Conroy Creative Counsel offers smart websites for law firms. She has also been around Lawyerist since 2009, writing posts that have a smashing success, such as the Best Law Firm Websites series.

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