Tesco Tech Support Blog

Online security is big news again

You may have been beguiled by the Olympics over the last couple of weeks, but even so you’ve probably had time to notice at least one other big story that’s dominated the news. Online security is back on the agenda, and things are reaching crisis pitch.

Lock out fraudsters by using different passwords and usernames on different sites

World of Warcraft, Dropbox, Yahoo!, NVIDIA, LinkedIn and more have all been the subject of high-profile hacks recently, and as if to prove that no-one is truly safe. Wired writer Mat Honan found that his online accounts with Apple, Amazon and Google were all accessed by someone without his permission.

This resulted in the loss of hundreds of precious family photos and a fair amount of pride. After all, if Wired writers can’t protect themselves against online criminals, who can?

Fortunately there is plenty we can all do, but the most important thing to understand is that online dangers have changed drastically over the last few years.

It used to be that your PC was the primary target for attack, and so internet security was all about locking your own machine down safely. Anti-virus software, firewalls and phishing filters were the tools in your armoury, designed to see off attacks without you even knowing they were taking place.

What’s changed is that hackers are now focussed on getting into your online accounts, and there’s no easy way for you to stop them. They’re looking for weaknesses in other people’s systems, the people who hold vast amounts of your data, which is linked to other accounts. All those online services you rely on for your work and social life are under attack all day, every day. And once one falls, others follow.

So Dropbox accounts were attacked by hackers who found usernames and passwords lying relatively unprotected on one of Yahoo!’s servers. Honan’s Apple account was compromised when criminals worked out how to reset his Amazon passwords. You can’t install an internet security suite to make these kinds of problems go away.

Instead, you’ve got to be responsible. Use different passwords and usernames for different sites, and invent answers for those password reset questions that you’re asked for extra security. Finding out your date of birth or maiden name can be as simple as searching Facebook .

And if all that seems like a lot of effort, you can make it easier by using an online password vault like Lastpass. Because however much hassle it seems now, if you don’t protect your different online accounts, you will regret it later.

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