• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 34s

Hackers steal millions of passwords

By CBS News 12:58 PM December 5, 2013

The Netherlands seemed to be targeted the most.

NEW YORK- Nearly 2 million user names and passwords for Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, and other popular sites have been compromised and circulated online, Internet security researchers report.

The security firm Trustwave SpiderLabs first discovered the breach and posted its findings online.

The hackers’ massive database included stolen information from some 320,000 email accounts, 318,000 Facebook accounts, and 21,000 Twitter users, Trustwave said. Many Russian-language social networking sites were also targeted.

Most of the accounts do not appear to belong to users in the United States. CNET notes that fewer than 2,000 of the stolen login credentials affect U.S. users.

The Netherlands seemed to be targeted the most, accounting for 97 percent of the stolen passwords, followed by Thailand, Germany, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Trustwave researchers combed through the stolen passwords and made another disturbing discovery: Thousands of people used the same weak and easily crackable passwords. The company says more than 15,000 of the affected users had set “123456″as their password, and about 2,000 each just used the word “password” or “admin.”

In Trustwave’s analysis, only 5 percent of the stolen passwords were considered excellent and 17 percent were good. The rest were moderate or worse.

Internet security experts say many breaches occur because passwords are too easy to guess, although that may not have been a factor in this case. They offer a number of tips to help keep your personal data safe from hackers:

-Make them long. The minimum should be eight characters, but even longer is better.

- Use combinations of letters and numbers, upper and lower case and symbols such as the exclamation mark. Try to vary it as much as you can. “My!PaSsWoRd-32″ is far better than “mypassword32.”

- Avoid words that are in dictionaries, as there are programs that can crack passwords by going through databases of known words. These programs know about such tricks as adding numbers and symbols, so you’ll want to make sure the words you use aren’t in the databases. One trick is to think of a sentence and use just the first letter of each word — as in “tqbfjotld” for “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

-Avoid easy-to-guess words, even if they aren’t in the dictionary. Avoid your name, company name or hometown, for instance. Avoid pets and relatives’ names, too. Likewise, avoid things that can be looked up, such as your birthday or ZIP code.

-Many sites let you reset your password by answering a security question, but these answers — such as your pet or mother’s maiden name — are possible to look up. So try to make these answers complex just like passwords, by adding numbers and special characters and making up responses.

When a malicious hacker gets a password to one account, it’s often a stepping stone to a more serious breach, especially because many people use the same passwords on multiple accounts. So if someone breaks into your Facebook account, that person might try the same password on your banking or Amazon account. Suddenly, it’s not just about fake messages being posted to your social media accounts. It’s about your hard-earned money.

It’s particularly bad if the compromised password is for an email account. That’s because when you click on a link on a site saying you’ve forgotten your password, the service will typically send a reset message by email. People who are able to break into your email account, therefore, can use it to create their own passwords for all sorts of accounts. You’ll be locked out as they shop and spend, courtesy of you.

If the compromised password is one you use for work, someone can use it to break in to your employer’s network, where there are files with trade secrets or customers’ credit card numbers.

Many services offer a second level of authentication when you’re accessing them from a computer or device for the first time. These services will send you a text message to a phone number on file, for instance. The text message contains a code that you need in addition to your password. The idea is that a hacker may have your password, but won’t have ready access to your phone.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are among the services offering this dual authentication. It’s typically an option, something you have to turn on. Do that. It may be a pain, but it will save you grief later. In most cases, you won’t be asked for this second code when you return to a computer you’ve used before, but be sure to decline that option if you’re in a public place such as a library or Internet cafe.

Don’t get complacent — change your passwords regularly. It’s possible your account information is already circulating. If you have a regular schedule for changing passwords for major accounts, you reduce the amount of time that someone can do harm with that information.

You’ll need to decide what counts as a major account. Banking and shopping sites are obvious, as are email and social-networking services. It probably doesn’t matter much if someone breaks into the account you use to read newspaper articles (unless it’s a subscription).

And strong passwords alone won’t completely keep you safe. Make sure your computer is running the latest software, as older versions can have flaws that hackers have been known to exploit. Be careful when clicking on email attachments, as they may contain malicious software for stealing passwords. Use firewalls and other security programs, many of which are available for free.

Latest Stories

  • News

    $20M asphalt plant under construction in North Pole

    by Associated Press on Oct 13, 8:49

    A new $20 million asphalt plant will be built in North Pole. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://is.gd/AvLUeb) Petro Star Inc. announced the plant at its North Pole Refinery. The plant will be built this winter, and asphalt production is expected to begin in the spring. Among the customers for the asphalt will be the […]

  • News

    APD: Man with gun apprehended outside West High

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 13, 8:32

    Anchorage police say a reportedly armed man was apprehended outside West High School Tuesday morning. “Man reported outside of West High armed with gun, police have apprehended him,” the Anchorage Police Department said in an alert around 8:15 a.m. APD spokesperson Anita Shell said the incident was reported at 7:58 a.m. and that the man […]

  • News

    Fish & Game reminds drivers to slow down for moose

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 13, 7:55

    After two people died in crashes with moose this weekend, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking drivers to slow down. One crash happened early Saturday on De Armoun Road. The other was early Sunday on Minnesota Drive. Both drivers and the moose involved died. Fish and Game says they see an uptick in crashes this […]

  • Sports

    Home, not-so-sweet home

    by Dave Goldman on Oct 12, 23:53

    When is home game not a home game? When it’s West at East and West is at home. Got it? It began a couple of weeks ago when the East High School football team clinched the Cook Inlet Conference regular season title. That affords them home team status throughout the playoffs, even when a game is played on a neutral […]

  • News

    Suicide awareness discussion follows cluster of suicides in Hooper Bay

    by Daniella Rivera on Oct 12, 23:10

    It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but prevention advocates say if Alaskans don’t discuss suicide, the already high rate will continue to climb. Alaska has the second highest suicide rate per capita in the nation. Recently, there were four in Hooper Bay in just 16 days. And the problem isn’t just in rural […]

  • News

    Fire official: 2 firefighters killed, 2 hurt in Kansas City

    by Associated Press on Oct 12, 20:55

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City Fire Department official says two firefighters were killed and two were injured when a burning building collapsed. Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett tells the Kansas City Star crews were dispatched to a building on the northeast side of town around 7:30 p.m. Monday. He says firefighters found the […]

  • News

    New robot camera can ‘see’ under water

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 12, 20:00

    Alaska State Troopers are excited about a new tool that can help them with rescue and recovery underwater. Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers are training with a submersible robotic camera that uses sonar to find objects or bodies underwater. Troopers said it would come in handy in places where divers aren’t available to search […]

  • News

    City considers new housing options for homeless

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 12, 19:37

    Anchorage is hosting the annual conference of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness this week. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz spoke Monday morning, telling the crowd that ending homelessness in Anchorage is a top priority for his administration. Nancy Burke, Anchorage’s Homelessness Coordinator, said the city favors a “housing first” model, which she said could take […]