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Over 2 million Internet accounts hacked

In a recent massive breach, hackers stole usernames and passwords for thousands of websites, including Facebook.
December 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
In a massive breach over the past few months, hackers have stolen usernames and passwords for thousands of websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. It's a threat to nearly two million Internet accounts.

Malicious hacking of key websites and social media accounts will continue to happen as long as we have the Internet. But there's no reason you have to be a victim. Using safe passwords and changing them regularly can help keep you from being hacked.

This massive data breach was the result of keylogging software maliciously installed on computers. No one knows yet how the virus got onto so many personal computers but it's believed the hackers were so successful because people like to use simple passwords.

Some examples of the worst passwords are: 123456, PASSWORD, QWERTY,ABC123, NCC1701 (that last one is the ship number for the starship Enterprise from "Star Trek.")

"The very best password is random. But no one can remember random numbers and characters and letters, said Steve Gibson, a computer hacking expert.

Gibson came up with something called a haystack calculator. It's a website that can show you immediately how easy or how hard it is to hack your password. Using Gibson's calculator, you can see how easy it is to crack a password. For example, if you type in 123456, the calculator says it could take less than a second to crack that password.

In another example, type in Dog with a capital "D" and put in 10 periods. You'll see that the calculator changes as you add periods. It would take more than 38 centuries to hack it and that's assuming 100 trillion guesses per second.

"If you just make your password longer by adding a bunch of periods to it, or make up your own rule, but if you just make it longer, then your password is not going to get cracked by a brute force attack," said Gibson.

Gibson's suggestion for the best passwords would include at least one letter in upper case, one letter in lower case, one digit, one symbol and try to make it 12 characters long.

Passwords don't have to be so complicated that you can't remember it. Just try to make it longer and not the least bit obvious. And make sure your anti-virus software is up to date just in case someone tries to hack you.


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