Is your online data safe?


I wrote about online passwords just last week but since then Internet security firm SplashData has released their annual list of worst passwords. Each year they look at how easy we’re making it for hackers to take our data, our money and in many cases our identities.

The big news last year was that for the first time since they started compiling the list, ‘password’ didn’t come in at number one. It slipped into second place with ‘123456’ rising to the top position. It would seem that we haven’t learnt much over the past twelve months because they’ve taken the number one and two positions again.

SplashData has announced its annual list of the 25 most common passwords found on the Internet – thus making them the “Worst Passwords” that will expose anybody to being hacked or having their identities stolen. In its fourth annual report, compiled from more than 3.3 million leaked passwords during the year, “123456”and “password” continue to hold the top two spots that they have held each year since the first list in 2011. Other passwords in the top 10 include “qwerty,” “dragon,” and “football.”

If you see your password among the top ten in the picture above, you’re data is in serious danger. In fact, you should take the time to check out SplashData’s full list for 2014. If anything there is familiar, it’s time to change your passwords or get ready to get hacked.

SplashData’s list of frequently used passwords shows that many people continue to put themselves at risk by using weak, easily guessable passwords.

“Passwords based on simple patterns on your keyboard remain popular despite how weak they are,” said Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData. “Any password using numbers alone should be avoided, especially sequences. As more websites require stronger passwords or combinations of letters and numbers, longer keyboard patterns are becoming common passwords, and they are still not secure.”

For example, users should avoid a sequence such as “qwertyuiop,” which is the top row of letters on a standard keyboard, or “1qaz2wsx” which comprises the first two ‘columns’ of numbers and letters on a keyboard.

If you’re looking for a better solution you might like to try a password manager application.

SplashData has SplashID Safe which, as they say, offers solutions for people and organizations who care about keeping passwords and other information both secure and accessible.

I’ve been using LastPass for several years. It’s another password manager which makes web browsing more secure and I highly recommend giving it a try.

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Twitter Hacked


The big news today for Twitter users is that there has been a major hacking attempt that may have seen around a quarter of a million accounts exposed.

This week, we detected unusual access patterns that led to us identifying unauthorized access attempts to Twitter user data. We discovered one live attack and were able to shut it down in process moments later. However, our investigation has thus far indicated that the attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens and encrypted/salted versions of passwords – for approximately 250,000 users. – Twitter Blog

Twitter realised that the hack would take more than 140 characters to explain, so they took to their blog to let us know that we needed to change passwords. I use the word ‘we’ because I was one of those 250 000 people that had their accounts compromised.

I must admit that when I got the email I was a little hesitant to follow the link they supplied to reset my password. Similar emails have been the way phishing scams have worked for years. This one looked real but just in case I tried to access Twitter only to find that I couldn’t log in. I then used the ‘Lost Password’ feature in Twitter to do my reset instead of following the link, just in case.

I’ll admit that I was pretty pleased with the way that Twitter moved swiftly to ensure the safety of their users. As well as dealing with the direct threat, they’ve given some helpful keys to ensuring safety online. Whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook or any other kind of online service, their advice is work checking out.

Though only a very small percentage of our users were potentially affected by this attack, we encourage all users to take this opportunity to ensure that they are following good password hygiene, on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet. Make sure you use a strong password – at least 10 (but more is better) characters and a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols – that you are not using for any other accounts or sites. Using the same password for multiple online accounts significantly increases your odds of being compromised. If you are not using good password hygiene, take a moment now to change your Twitter passwords. For more information about making your Twitter and other Internet accounts more secure, read our Help Center documentation or the FTC’s guide on passwords. – Twitter Blog

If you’re looking for a great way to create and manage secure passwords, I’d advise you to check out LastPass. I’ve found using LastPass to be easy, safe and helpful.

The LastPass team believes your online experience can be easier, faster and safer. Collectively we lose more than 10,300 hours per year retrieving lost passwords, making new ones or talking to call center representatives about them. And it gets much worse if a password is stolen and misused. We go online to connect with people, explore, shop and learn. We certainly don’t go online to fuss with passwords or risk our privacy, personal or financial information. Designed by web enthusiasts and skilled application developers, LastPass was created to make the online experience easier and safer for everyone.

By the way, if you’re not already following me on Twitter, you’ll find me here.

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