Special Report: Passwords to Protection - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Special Report: Passwords to Protection

Social media is growing more and more popular, but so are the number of people trying to hack into those accounts. If your Facebook password is the same as your twitter or bank account passwords, you are asking for trouble.

Passwords are the keys to our world. It seems we have one for just about everything these days - email, financial accounts, social networks.

"I probably have 15," one person admitted to us. Another says, "Seven or eight."

With that many codes to remember, you may find yourself suffering from password fatigue. Too many accounts with so many passwords. It's a struggle to remember every one. Instead, most choose one or two to cover all accounts.

"It's a bad idea," says cyber security expert General Ronald Burgess, when a person admits they use a signal password for everything. If someone hacks one account, they have access to them all.

"You have to be careful in this world to protect info you have," Burgess says. He spent 38 years in the military, and much of that time was focused on intelligence. He now heads up cyber security for Auburn University. He cautions thought that no one is immune from hackers.

Just last year, in one case, hackers swiped millions of passwords from popular sites like Facebook, GMail, Yahoo, Twitter and LinkedIn.

"Some of these people are very sophisticated," Gen. Burgess explains. He recommends you choose strong passwords. So what makes a "strong" password?

Burgess says it should contain upper AND lower case letters, numbers, special characters, be at least eight characters in length and have no personal connection. In other words, don't include things like your child or pet's name or your wedding anniversary.

SplashData recently revealed the worst passwords currently being used. The top three: #1 "123456", #2 "password" and #3 "12345678". The Top 20 worst list found at the end of this report.

There are apps that can help you determine if your password is strong or weak. "Password" is about as weak as you can get.

[ON THE WEB: http://www.passwordmeter.com/​ tests the strength of your password.]

Then again, it doesn't matter how strong your password is if you share it. DO NOT give it to anyone. You may be opening up your information for thieves without even realizing it.

Use caution when using a free wifi hotspot, but even paying to use a connection at a hotel, airport or on a plane can also create a false sense of security.

"I don't know who has access to it," Burgess says. 

Regardless of how hard you try to protect your password, he warns that thieves continue to get smarter. They can know exactly where you went and what you type. As thieves come up with new ways to steal your password, companies are working on solutions.

Burgess predicts a multi-layer security system that includes passwords, pin number and biometrics. It's evolving, but Burgess cautions that nothing is ever enough. Thieves will come up with a way.

The big take always - have a strong password and use different passwords for multiple accounts. Change your password often. If you have trouble memorizing it, consider a password program, one that saves all your passwords to a master list using a master password.

Burgess also advises that if you share too much on social media, you are only making it easier for identity thieves.

Here are 20 of the most commonly hacked passwords, according to SplashData. If you have any variation of one, you should change it immediately.

(1) 123456 
(2) password 
(3) 12345678 
(4) qwerty 
(5) abc123 
(6) 123456789 
(7) 111111 
(8) 1234567 
(9) iloveyou 
(10) adobe123 
(11) 123123 
(12) admin 
(13) 1234567890 
(14) letmein 
(15) photoshop 
(16) 1234 
(17) monkey 
(18) shadow 
(19) sunshine 
(20) 12345 

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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