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Source: Technorati

Posted on December 28, 2010

Attention, Internet users: You're being sloppy with your online passwords. That's the harsh lesson to be learned from the results of a survey of computer users commissioned by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

In the survey, 79 percent of American adults revealed they've used personal information - a security no-no - as part of their online passwords. Furthermore, 26 percent said they've used the same password for important accounts such as email, online banking, shopping and social networking.

Even worse: Eight percent of computer users acknowledged they'd copied an entire password they found in an online list of supposedly "good" passwords.

Given those disclosures, it's no surprise that 29 percent of survey respondents said their email or social networking accounts had been hacked. Once a hacker gains access to one account, it often can be used to access other sites that contain your financial data, such as bank account and credit card numbers.

In June 2010, Consumer Reports estimated that cybercrime had cost American consumers $4.5 billion over the past two years. "Especially now, with online shopping on the rise this holiday season, consumers need to be aware of the importance of passwords and the fact that hackers are getting more and more sophisticated in cracking them," said Bari Abdul, vice president of consumer sales at Check Point, a provider of IT security software and hardware.

"By creating a unique password for each important account, consumers create the first line of defense against online thieves who can't wait to gain access to critical data for financial gain."

Check Point offers these tips to ward off hackers:
• Choose a password that's at least eight to 10 characters. The company said that should be long enough to prevent security-busting "brute force" attacks.
• Make sure your password is difficult for someone to guess. Do not use names of any kind, including a pet's name or a relative's name. Avoid using personal information such as a phone number, birthdate or birthplace. A Symantec Corp. survey earlier this year found that 10 percent of people had used a pet's name as a password, and 9 percent had used their birthdate.
• Steer clear of words that can be found in a dictionary.
• Stay away from repeated characters or easy-to-guess sequences, such as 77777, 12345 or abcde.
• Pick a password that is a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters. The more complex and random it is, the harder it will be for a malicious person to crack.
• Use fragments of words that can't be looked up in a dictionary. Break the word in half and put a special character in the middle.
• Select unique passwords for all important sites.
• Change your passwords frequently.

"When creating passwords, consumers should think about the importance of the account, and what the consequences would be if it was hacked," Abdul said. "Ultimately, you would not use the same generic password for a banking account as the one used to sign up for a free video game."

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