Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Has my email address been stolen?

We hear about email addresses and passwords being lost all of the time. Quite often they are stolen by hackers who have managed to breach the lax security of some of the larger, and possibly more trusted, companies in the online world.

Personal and financial details, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and credit card information, are often lost along with website usernames and passwords.

One of the more infamous such breaches was of the Sony PlayStation databases, back in April 2011, in which 77 million user accounts were stolen, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_Network_outage)

In a more recent hack the huge software company Adobe are reported to have lost data on 150 million accounts! To discover if your email address was one of those lost by Adobe go to the website https://lastpass.com/adobe/ and enter your email address(es).

Even if your email address hasn't ended up in the hands of the hackers you should take the opportunity to change all of your passwords for more secure and complex pa$3-WOrd!

There is another website at https://haveibeenpwned.com/ which can check against a lot of other hacked databases to see if your email address may have been compromised.

But, you should also ensure that you use different passwords on each and every website where you open an account, so if one is hacked you do not risk having all of your website accounts hacked. Not so easy though! Or is it?


Ideally you need to use "complex" passwords of about 8 characters, and have a different password for each website that you deal with. A complex password is built up with CAPITAL letters, lower-case letters, numb3rs and pun&tuat!on marks, such as P4s$w0rD!  But, how would you ever remember several such passwords?

Here's a simple solution. Decide on a random word which will form the basis of all of your passwords. But that word shouldn't be a real word or name which is associated with you in any way, or able to be guessed. So, let's put that into practise.

At school I really liked a girl called Carol, (although I never dared to tell her so!) So the basis of my randomly generated passwords shall be "arol".

I'll now add both punctuation and a number  - arol9!

To make it unique, to each and every web site that I use, I shall add the first 2 letters of the name of the company operating that web site to the front of my new password in Capital Letters.

So, if I am dealing with Amazon, I would create the unique password of AMarol9!
Ebay is given EBarol9!
Marks and Spencer gets MAarol9!
The IT Dept = THarol9!

I have quickly and simply created an infinite number of exceptionally strong passwords which are extremely memorable.


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© Michael Donkin 2014