Over 2 Billion Stolen Emails and Passwords Surface Online
Exposure of hacked accounts far greater than initially thought. How to protect yourself.
Nearly 2.2 billion stolen emails and passwords have surfaced online for criminals to access, according to a German research group, exposing far more accounts than originally thought.
Initially, almost 773 million accounts were thought to have been exposed online, according to Australian researcher Troy Hunt.
But researchers from Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute now say they’ve found four more batches of account information—all accessible for criminals to download. The discovery was first reported by German tech website Heise.de and later by Wired.
Tips for Keeping Your Data Safe
“Consumers need to be protecting their accounts proactively," says Wilson, "in the same way they secure their homes and vehicles.”
Here are some tips for doing that.
Use better passwords. Great passwords go a long way toward protecting your information. Long, random sets of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and special characters are best. And don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Vecci notes that a password manager can take the heavy lifting out of this admittedly daunting task.
Turn on 2FA. Make sure you’ve enabled multi-factor authentication, also known as two-factor authentication, on your accounts. This requires you to enter a second form of identification—such as a code texted to your phone—in addition to your password, before accessing your account.
That will go a long way toward keeping cybercriminals out, even if your password shows up in a dark web data dump.
Guard your info. Make sure that your social media posts are restricted to people you actually know. Facebook has a privacy checkup tool to help with this. And always think before you post. Private information has a way of becoming public.
And if you have an online account that you no longer use (remember MySpace?), delete it.
Perform those software updates. This isn’t important for just your laptops and smartphones but also your router and any “internet of things” device connected to it. Known security flaws that have not been patched give hackers easy access to your network.
One good way to cover all your bases is to use an antivirus program and keep it updated. There are great AV packages out there—both free and paid—that cover traditional computers and mobile devices, too. For more info on those, Consumer Reports members can check out our full ratings.
Passing the Password Test
What's your password strategy when it comes to protecting your online accounts? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, a Consumer Reports expert explains what you need to know about password managers.