Following the Yahoo breach many users are concerned about their online safety and what to do next. As with all data breaches although a lot of the issues are beyond the control of the user there are some straightforward measures that they can take to be as safe as possible online.
Passwords should be long, strong and unique, worryingly the most common passwords in 2016 are: “123456” , ”password” and “12345678”.
If you are using a simple or common password you are at risk with or without a breach. Attackers maintain lists of common passwords and simply cycle through them to gain access to accounts. If you struggle to remember long complex passwords try using more memorable pass phrases like:
It is easier for your brain to remember so you can create a much longer password that is harder for an attacker to brute force. You should also not reuse passwords across different websites especially those that contain sensitive information such as email and banking websites.
If you really want to ensure strong unique passwords it is worth considering using a password manager app. These apps can generate and store unique passwords for every site you use and store it in a secure “vault” that you unlock with a fingerprint or one master password.
Almost all the major platforms offer the option to enable multifactor authentication. In simple terms this means that when you log in using a new device they send a code to your phone to verify it is really you. In the event your password is stolen the attacker is unable to login without this code. This is a really quick win in terms of online safety.
Users should be aware of their digital footprint; many users are often unaware of quiet how much personal information they share online. Look at privacy settings on social media and Google yourself to see what can be found.
haveibeenpwned.com is a website which can notify users if their details have appeared in any past or inevitably future data breaches. Think of it as credit monitoring for your online identity.
Attackers often use events in the news such as this breach as a catalyst to trick users by sending out spam emails pretending to be associated with the breached company. These emails often have malware attachments they want the user to open or they are trying to get the user to fill in valuable personal details and passwords. If in doubt go directly to the website and contact the company directly to verify if any contact is genuine. Avoid clicking links or opening attached files.
Taking these measures should help you stay ahead of the attackers as much as possible by restricting their ability to reuse and abuse stolen information.
James Maude, Lead Cyber Security Researcher
James Maude is the Lead Cyber Security Researcher at BeyondTrust’s Manchester, U.K., office. James has broad experience in security research, conducting in-depth analysis of malware and cyber threats to identify attack vectors and trends in the evolving security landscape. His background in forensic computing and active involvement in the security research community makes him an expert voice on cybersecurity. He regularly presents at international events and hosts webinars to discuss threats and defense strategies.