Yahoo reported today that usernames and passwords of some of their email customers have been stolen. Read the specifics in this ABC News Wire story.
Unfortunately, this is becoming a daily occurrence, and much like the person who kept yelling “fire”, we are slowly becoming numb to these warnings of security breaches and identity thefts. But we must not let down our guard.
So, what can you do? Here are a few suggestions, and by no means complete:
- Use strong passwords – the password for your email account should (1) contain a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, and (2) be 8 or more characters in length. Why? Because it makes it that much harder for spammers and hackers to break your password. An easy to implement rule is to replace some letters with numbers or similar special characters.
One example, if your password was “racingcars”, you might change it to “R@c1ngC@r$” – where I simply replaced the letter a with @, the letter i with the number 1, and the letter s with $.
- Change your email password – if you think your email account has been compromised, go online to your email provider’s web site and change your password immediately.
- Don’t click on links within emails – especially those that are mass emails sent from financial institutions, stores, or online web sites. Example: if you get an email from PayPal saying there’s an issue with your account, don’t click on the link in the email. Instead, open up your browser and go directly to the PayPal website.
- Restrict incoming email – if you really want to cut back on junk email, many email programs, including Outlook, will allow you to set up a “Safe Senders” list. If a person is not listed in your “Safe Senders” list, then the email will be sent to your Junk Mail folder. Outlook will also give you the option to automatically add everyone in your Contacts to your Safe Senders list.
- Learn to use the BCC: field – BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy”. If you are going to send out an email to a group of unrelated people, then list their email addresses in the BCC: field rather than the TO: field.
- Never send confidential information by email – if someone needs your social security number, call them and give it to them over the phone. Don’t email it. Don’t text it. You have to consider the possibility that anything you put into an email could get into the wrong hands.
C’est la vie!