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Lessons from Yahoo hack: How to safeguard your email


 Many people are still not using routine precautions to protect their email accounts — and hackers are utilizing that.
According to U.S. officials who filed charges in a massive Yahoo break-in, Russian hackers didn’t have to work hard to break into people’s email accounts, even those relating to government officials or powerful executives.
You can make yourself less of a target. There are a few simple steps to help safeguard your email account from hackers.
Many online hacking results when people have reused a password across, say, their email, social and financial accounts. If it’s compromised at any one of those services, the others are quickly vulnerable.
One easy way to avoid this difficulty is to start with a base password you can remember, and then add on letters and numbers that hint where you’re using it. If your base password is “greatsurfer2017” (which isn’t particularly secure; more on that in a second), you could make “greatsurfer2017Y” your Yahoo password, and “greatsurfer2017G” your Google password.
If you can’t be bothered to do more, this is a base level of protection that can help guard you against the most obvious threats. But it’s still only a baby step.
You can make things strong for hackers by creating your base password stronger. The more complicated and long password is, the harder it will be for hackers to guess.
The downside: Tougher passwords are also harder to remember. But there are some ways around that.
Don’t include your children’s names, birthdays or references to any other own details. Hackers routinely troll Facebook and Twitter for hints to passwords like these. Obvious and default passwords such as “Password123” are also not good, as are words usually found in dictionaries, as these are used in programs hackers have to automate guesses.
You can create your own strong passwords with randomly capitalized nonsense words interspersed with numbers and characters — like, say, “giLLy33!florp.” (Just don’t use that one now that it’s appeared in this story.) So long as you’re making up the words yourself, these are hard for hackers to crack — and they’re easier to remember than you might think, though you might want to repeat them a few times.
Of course, you can make things easier on yourself by using a password-manager service such as LastPass or Dashlane, which keep track of multiple complex passwords for you. Some web browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome also will have built-in password managers; these work if you switch devices, but not if you switch browsers.
After you generate a strong password for your password manager, it can create random passwords for your other accounts — and will remember them for you as well.
“It’s more secure and it makes your life smoother,” said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy at the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University.
The next line of defense is two- or multifactor authentication, which asks users to enter the second form of identification, such as a code texted to their phone, when they log in. It’s now commonplace for many emails and social media accounts. That way, even if hackers succeed to get your password they still need your phone with the texted code.
“Having another way for that account to say ‘Hey, is that truly you?’, and give veto authority is very important,” Winterton said.
According to the statement, the Russian hackers searched email accounts for keywords like “passwords” to get people’s passwords for other accounts. They also searched for “credit card” ”visa,” among other terms. So think twice before you use common key words that can serve as a road map to delicate information for hackers. And don’t save passwords in old emails.
“There’s not one single thing out there that can keep you perfectly safe,” Winterton said. “But there are a lot of various things out there that can keep you almost perfectly safe.”

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