· Using the same password for everything. Well, surprise, surprise: You use the same password for email, eBay, Facebook and your bank account. The bad guys crack your Facebook password. Guess what else they have?
· Insecure browsers, websites, programs and operating systems. Insecure websites lead to insecure transactions. Use HTTPs for everything. Read my column titled “Batten down the hatches with encryption, Part One,” 5-24-09, on my website. After reading that column, consider using HTTPs Everywhere (eff.org/https-everywhere) in combination with the Firefox browser (mozilla.com).
In addition, everything in a computer requires frequent updating. That’s just the way it is. Updating plugs security holes. Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, Flash, Java, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Office, iTunes, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari all require, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would say, “monitoring and periodic adjustment.” Maybe it’s a hassle, but that’s just the way it is; update and be safe.
· Computer security breaches and “leaks.” Government agencies, educational institutions and businesses get hacked every day. Sometimes huge, stupid, accidental information “leaks” occur, compromising the security and privacy of thousands, even millions of people at once.
For example, the passwords to 10,028 Hotmail accounts, all beginning with the letters A and B, were “somehow” posted to an online forum used by software developers on Oct. 1, 2009. This breach was witnessed and reported by journalists from the BBC. Speculation about hacked Microsoft servers flew around the Web.
Naturally, Microsoft insisted that it couldn’t be their fault. After much harrumphing and negotiating, Microsoft caused the website to delete the list and promised a swift investigation. Now, four years later, the results of that investigation are still unknown. BBC reporters postulated that since the list was only comprised of accounts beginning with A and B, the actual list, including the letters C through Z, could be much larger.