Q. I have seen several articles where you mention that hackers have millions of usernames and passwords. I read an article claiming this is false. Do you know if it is true? Thanks!
-Ted from Rochester, Minnesota listens to my national radio show on Supertalk 1570 am.
A. I completely understand why you're confused, Ted. Many people are. On one hand, you're listening to my radio show and reading Komando.com. One of my goals is to make sure your identity and personal information are safe.
It's true, Ted. Hackers steal usernames, passwords, IDs, money and more all the time. I'll explain more about that in a minute.
But, on the other hand, you read conflicting news, like the article that you mentioned. Let me backtrack for a minute.
You may have heard about the Turkish Crime Family. It's a hacking group that was trying to extort Apple out of $75,000 to $700,000. The group claimed to have access to 559 million Apple email accounts and iCloud accounts. They said they'd delete their access to these accounts only when Apple paid them in a digital currency like Bitcoin. The group also said they would accept $100,000 in Apple iTunes gift cards.
Ted, this is the most important thing to know about this hacker group. It turned out they were all talk and no action. Yet, they likely do have access to millions of accounts.
However, an Apple spokesperson told Fortune magazine the following: "There have not been any breaches in any of Apple's systems, including iCloud and Apple email. The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services."
In other words, if the hackers do have access to millions of Apple usernames and passwords, they were not stolen from Apple. They were more likely obtained from one of the worst data breaches in recent memory.
One of the biggest hacks ever
In the case of the stolen Apple usernames and passwords, it's likely the hackers obtained them, not from Apple, but another hack. The prevailing theory is the 2012 LinkedIn hack of more than 100 million accounts (which the social media network revealed only years later). It seems the Turkish Crime Family tried using these usernames and passwords to access Apple accounts.
The hackers are taking advantage of a widespread problem. A lot of people, but hopefully not you, use easy-to-hack passwords like 123456 or Password. Worse, they use these passwords for many of their accounts and devices.
To protect your family and you, and all your digital devices, use strong passwords and change them often.
Bonus Tip: Avoid making these password mistakes.
5 seconds to see if you've been hacked
Do you want to know if you've been hacked? Go to the site HaveIBeenPwned.com. Type in your email address and in a few seconds it'll tell you if any of your accounts have been hacked. Ted, when I typed in a friend's email address, it turns out her usernames and passwords had been hacked four times! That includes the recent River City Media hack, which exposed 1.4 billion personal accounts to hackers.
To protect yourself from future hacks, make sure your usernames and passwords are unique and difficult for hackers to figure out. You may also want to use a password manager. That way, you can securely store complex passwords, but you only need to remember one password to unlock the manager.
Note: Ted, thanks for listening to my show and for following my advice. When you type your email address into HaveIBeenPwned, I think it'll say you have not been hacked.
Tip within a Tip: Read more about finding out if you've been hacked!
Backup all your family's devices
Ted, hackers do steal millions of usernames and passwords. It's an all-too-common problem that can adversely affect your life. What if a hacker steals your information and wipes out all your photos, files and financial information? Could you live without your smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers?
Of course, you can. But it would be a huge inconvenience if you had to try to restore all the countless data you and your family have saved and stored over the years. Can you even remember all of it? Worse, what if hackers permanently erase your personal information and photos?
I have a suggestion to easily protect all your family's information on all their smartphones, tablets and computers.
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