You might want to think about changing your online passwords after a report that Russian computer hackers have stolen 1.2 billion computer user names and passwords.
The thieves targeted 420,000 websites, according to Alex Holden, chief information security officer at Hold Security, the firm that uncovered the breach.
Holden said he had been tracking the Russian criminals for seven months, but only was able to begin reviewing their massive cache of databases during the past few weeks.
The names of the websites that were broken into were not identified. But Hold Security plans to open a website in the coming days where people can search free-of-charge to see if their passwords and user names have been compromised.
It's just the latest example of security issues when it comes to protecting people's online information.
Security experts say one of the best things you can do is to make sure your new passwords are strong. Here are seven ways to fortify them:
- Make your password long.
- Use combinations of letters and numbers, upper and lower case and symbols.
- Avoid words that are in dictionaries, even if you add numbers and symbols.
- Substitute characters. For instance, use the number zero instead of the letter O, or replace the S with a dollar sign.
- Avoid easy-to-guess words, even if they aren't in the dictionary.
- Never reuse passwords on other accounts.
- Some services give you the option of using two passwords when you use a particular computer or device for the first time. For example, if you have that feature turned on for Gmail, it will send a text message with a six-digit code to your phone when you try to use Gmail from an unrecognized device.