LinkedIn password scare - A Cautionary Tale.


In the latest incident involving well known internet based companies providing global services, it has been report that the passwords of millions of users have been posted on a Russian hackers forum calling into question the security of these large cloud based sites. The rapid rise in popularity of these sites has been widely recognised as a success story that has helped millions of users reach out and extend their networks in a way that has previously been unheard of. However, in the rush to be a part of this global phenomenon users should remember that information is power and that power in the wrong hands can be damaging at the very least.


Why are hackers so interested in the likes of LinkedIn? Well it's all part of a jigsaw that is related to identity theft. The more a hacker knows about an individual the easier it is to steal the identity of that individual. And this isn't just about getting into your bank account, although that is the most common outcome. It goes as far as selling your whole identity including passports, social security and educational details to establish a whole new life for someone and the first you may know of this is when you apply for a loan or worse you receive notification of a legal action against you.



What should we do then? The answer to that isn't simple unless you avoid social networking sites altogether. If you use social networking as an integral part of your life just be careful not to complete the jigsaw by providing all of the information a hacker requires. Using different email accounts for different sites helps a lot as it makes it harder to match details on one site to that of another. The practice of collecting online "friends" may seem like a lot of fun but should you tell these relative strangers the intimate details of your life? Isn't it sufficient just to tell someone you live in a general area rather than the town and street? Do they need to know who your brother, sisters and other close family member are? It the answer is yes be careful about the level of detail you go into, remember it isn't only your identity you are revealing!


Let's face it, social networking is here to stay so we have to be sensible about how we use it. Select who you want as your contacts and how much you want to tell them about yourself. When using these services remember to change your password on a regular basis and don't be obvious about it. One client used the password "blue" followed by a number that was sequential! What an easy crack that turned out to be! Use a combination of letters and numbers but not names and birthdays. If you have the option of using both upper and lowercase characters so much the better.


Cloud based networking can be a powerful tool and also a lot of fun but it does need to be used wisely. Think about the content and the audience has access to it and this will go a long way to securing your identity.