E-mail protection in the hacking era

KEEPING YOUR INBOX SAFE FROM HACKERS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Whether you've been hacked yourself or you've watching the ongoing saga of WikiLeaks posting Hilary Clinton’s alleged emails, you may be doubting your own account security in the digital age.

We have lots of online accounts: Banking, e-mail, shopping, you name it.

Of course, it’s much easier to use the same password for everything, but what's easy leaves you vulnerable. If a hacker figures out your password to one account, he or she will be able to unlock a lot more.

"And typically that's what happens,” said Michael McCartney, a cyber security expert with the company Digits LLC.  “[A] hacker gains access to one of these less secure website services and then they try all those combinations on the more traditional stuff, your Gmail account, your Yahoo account, your banking account.”

If your memory isn't great, you can download a password manager for free. Some password managers even work with cloud technology if, for example, you and a spouse or family members share accounts used across your devices.

McCartney says as hacking has gotten more complex, sites like Gmail have improved their security by offering two-step authentication. By registering your cell phone number along with your account, Google will send you a text with a special code when somebody logs in to your account. That code is required to log in.

"And that also has to be put in in order for you to authenticate into your mail,” said McCartney. “Obviously that means it’s actually you that's doing the login and not some person, some third party that has maybe your username and password but doesn't have that third piece.”

But even if you do everything right, McCartney says it's a tricky world, and there’s high incentive to steal information because hackers can make money by selling your information.

He recommends not emailing anything you wouldn't want showing up on the front page of the newspaper.
After all, an e-mail isn't just your computer to another.

"Now add to that the fact that we now exchange information freely across multiple devices, so the e-mail I sent you or that you sent me tonight went to my phone, went to my tablet, went to my laptop, went to my work,” McCartney explains.

Then, add in anyone you may have copied on that e-mail, too, and all the devices and servers they can access the memo from.

In sum, have strong passwords, have different passwords, and take advantage of any additional security fortification that a website or account offers you.


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