We could talk about password strength and safety first, but it is likely that you have heard that time and time again so I will slide that one down the priority list a bit.
There are storehouses of passwords that belong to compromised email addresses. You may have gotten a phishing email that claimed to have your password. One that I have seen provided a somewhat censored version of one of my old passwords.This typically comes with a ransom demand.
The way that these situations happen is the result of human nature. It is all too easy to use the same password on all of your online accounts. They keep increasing the password complexity and there are so many to keep track of.
When a website that you use gets hacked and the username/password database gets stolen that data gets sold off. The majority of Americans bank at one of five major financial institutions. If the criminals have control of your email address (or as we say in the industry, pwns) they can get passwords reset. If they get as far as getting your bank password, where does that leave you? It doesn’t take much imagination to see how bad that can be.
If you have a list of usernames/passwords it is like having a ring of keys. You can do some poking of common email providers and other services to see if those usernames and passwords open the door allowing criminals inside.
Has your email password ever been compromised? Maybe you had to change your email password because you started getting weird email bounceback messages. Would you like to see if your email address has been discovered on a list for sale, or just out for public consumption? Try this link. (I have a few email addresses that have been blown, so don’t feel badly about being listed.)
Where do you go from here? Regardless of being compromised in the past or not, you can help protect yourself from this moment forward by starting to use different passwords for each account. This is where a tool to track your passwords in a secure manner is important. There are many password storage tools out there. Some are subscription based, some are free. This is not an endorsement, but I can say that I have had good experience with Password Safe. Some of the important aspect to consider is that the tool stores your usernames and passwords using encryption, and that the tool is easy for you to use. If it is not easy, you won’t use it.
Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Maybe you have a password storage tool that you feel is wonderful, share it with the group. I am always happy to look over new products. Perhaps your input will give the rest of us a better tool to help us in staying safer.
Enjoy the day, and be good to those around you.