Been Hacked? Changing Your Password Might Not Be Enough

Almost everyone has received a message from a website or retailer with a notification of a security breach. Most include a recommendation to change your password, and in some cases, carefully monitor your financial accounts for signs of fraud.

In the wake of such high-profile data breaches as the recent one involving Target, or last year’s attack on LinkedIn that exposed millions of users’ passwords to criminals, Internet users are more concerned than ever before about the security of their personal information. We put thought into developing complex passwords that are difficult to hack, but if the database is going to be breached anyway, does it really matter if your password is the perfect combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols?

Some security experts argue it does not really matter and note if your account has been hacked, you probably need to do more to protect your data.

A Difficult Password Isn’t Necessarily a Secure Password

By now, most people realize a password like “password” or abc123” isn’t very hard to crack. What few people realize is sophisticated cybercriminals are not sitting in front of their computers running endless combinations of user names and “easy” passwords, one at a time.

Password ProtectionToday’s criminals are more focused on creating data breaches, in which they can steal millions of username and password combinations at once. Depending on where the data comes from, there is big money in stolen passwords. A password for a LinkedIn account, for example, might sell for $1 on the black market, while a bank password can sell for upwards of $850 or more. Even if you came up with what should be an uncrackable code, if it’s part of a large-scale data breach, you’re in trouble.

Some companies have tried to protect user passwords via encryption and a technique known as “salting.” Many databases do not store your actual password, but instead turn your password into a string of numbers or letters unique to your account. For added security, they “salt” the password with extra characters, rendering it unusable to someone who does not hold the encryption key. However, not all companies do this, meaning it’s up to you to protect yourself.

Enter Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is the latest advancement in security, and it’s being implemented in everything from bank accounts to mobile phones. Essentially, this type of security requires you to provide two or three ways of identifying yourself in order to gain access: something you know, something you have or something you are. A two-factor authentication token solution, for example, requires you to insert a token in addition to providing a password.

Two-factor authentication is effective because it creates an extra layer of security. Even if a criminal acquires your password, without the other factor, he or she won’t gain access to your information. You can protect your physical devices like your laptop with a physical token, while many major websites, such as Facebook and PayPal, offer a form of two-factor authentication as an optional security feature. You can adjust your account settings so you need to provide additional information, such as a code sent via text message to your phone, in order to log in.

Additional Protection Tips

To help prevent your password from being hacked, security experts recommend adjusting your method for devising your codes. For starters, 12-character passwords are more difficult to crack than 8-character passwords; the addition of four characters increases the number of potential combinations to an unmanageable number for even the most advanced hacking programs.

Rather than using a random string of characters, your password should be four unrelated words or a complete sentence. It’s unlikely a computer program will be able to guess four complete words.

Beyond using two-factor authentication and creating strong passwords, follow these best practices for using and storing passwords. Avoid using the same password more than once if you use it for a bank or credit account, and change your passwords regularly to thwart anyone who may have gained access to your credentials. Consider using a password manager to create and store your passwords securely as well.

Receiving word that your account has been exposed in a major data breach is enough to make anyone panic. However, if you’ve taken the steps to keep your password secure and added extra layers of security, a major breach should not affect your finances or your identity.

Electricity Safety for Kids

It is better to be safe than sorry – the phrase may come across as a cliché, but there is no denying its pertinence. Though you cannot remove all the things that pose a safety hazard, you can certainly keep a more careful watch on them. It helps to be prepared for such emergencies when your personal safety and that of your loved ones – especially kids – is at stake.

Tips for Ensuring Electricity Safety for Kids

Kids are especially vulnerable and therefore always at a greater risk of sustaining an injury. Supervision is certainly the best way to ensure proper safety for them. It is necessary to exercise additional caution when it comes to ensuring their safety against sharp objects, furniture edges, chemicals and of course electricity.

The electrical safety at home is of utmost importance compared to other threats because in the case of electricity, the reaction time is very short in case of an unfortunate event. Due to the same reason, it is better to be prepared with all possible precautions to avert an accident.

Here are a few tips for electricity safety for kids:

  1. When you have kids at home, it is necessary that you take extra care to ensure that you do not plug a bunch of stuff into one power outlet or even when you are using an extension cord. This may disrupt the entire electrical system of your home and may even pose the danger of a fire.
  2. Toddlers and kids do have the habit of putting their fingers into open sockets. Thus it is necessary that you cover unused electrical sockets with safety caps. This will also help you to save energy by putting an end to cold drafts. If caps can be easily removed, try closing all unused sockets with transparent cellophane (Sellotape) that toddlers won’t easily notice or remove.
  3. Consider installing approved electicity cut-off units or fuse cutouts at your home that protect your family from power leakage situations and short circuits. Needless to say, you need to periodically test these units for their proper functioning.
  4. Do not pull an electrical cord from the wall. It can not only damage the appliance but also the outlet or the plug.
  5. You need to ensure that all electric cords are in their rightful place and arranged in a neat and tidy manner. Not only do these pose safety issues for your kids, but chances are that your pets might start chewing them. Kids may stumble over these cords and fall down on the floor.
  6. Avoid buying those toys and gadgets, for kids, that run on home power connections. Even when your high school child is doing a power experiment, it is better that you watch him or her do so during the first few times.
  7. You need to ensure that there is no water or spillage near electrical stuff. In most cases, accidents occur as a result of carelessness. Be careful about not leaving any electrical appliances or cords near sinks or bathtubs.
  8. Do not allow kids to fly balloons or kites near power lines. Electricity can travel through strings that often get tangled up in the power lines.
  9. Make kids realize the importance of danger signs and ask them to avoid restricted areas, such as the ones with warnings or caution about high voltage.
  10. Last but not the least, accompany your kids and be with them as much as you can, especially if you have a toddler or infant at home.

Following the above tips you can ensure complete electricity safety for kids thereby avoiding untoward incidents.

You may also check out the sites of Electrical Safety Foundation International and US Consumer Product Safety Commission checklists.

Preparation & Checklist for a Hurricane

Looks like the frequency at which hurricanes occurs has been increasing in the recent times. The devastation caused by them across many US states – especially the south-eastern costal states – has been quite alarming with a lot of damage done to lives, businesses and the environment.

Though nobody can prevent the damage caused by hurricanes completely, there are ways to be prepared for a hurricane so that the damage and impact can be minimized. It is very important to prepare your home and your life after the hurricane much before the worst hits.

Save your documents & valuables

It’s important that your hurricane preparedness checklist include the preservation of several documents that prove your identity. The following are the hurricane checklist with respect to documents and valuables.

  1. Take a couple of photo copies of your important documents such as social security card, driving license, property title deeds, family photographs and graduation certificates and store them in strong see-through zip-locker. You have to safely keep them in a place at your home that deems strongest and immovable
  2. Take a few time-stamped photographs and videos of your home from various angles covering all of the interiors and exteriors and store them in DVDs. You will need these documents as proof for any insurance claim in the future. If you do not have a proper insurance coverage, you are running big risk in a hurricane prone area
  3. Take a bank locker facility and store all those documents originals and your valuables such as jewelry in your locker
  4. Install and/or arm your home security system. There are many systems available that can serve as your eyes when you’re not home. Just make sure to price out the system so you understand what comprises your monthly ADT payment.

Prepare your Home

Once the documents are safe, you need to prepare your home for a hurricane depending on the predicted impact of the same.

    1. Stock up non-perishable food and water: Bad storms and hurricanes can cause damage that can affect food supplies and availability of good water along with delayed rescue operations and shelter facilities. You need to stock up enough non-perishable food, water and other essentials to survive for at least a week to 10 days if the hurricane’s arrival is imminent
    2. Emergency kit: Next, you need to have your emergency survival kits ready. This includes flashlights, batteries, emergency lanterns, candles, lighters, battery operated radio, ropes, gloves, inflatable floating devices, windcheaters, sleeping bags and enough cash. You may also consider storing some band aids and essential OTC pills. Bad hurricanes usually affect the power supply and hence you need to get prepared for a hurricane hit life without electricity, water and natural gas supply
    3. Prepare your shelter at home: Once you have your supplies ready, prepare a room in the home that you consider the safest. This has to be typically a windowless room in the ground level floor. If there happens to be a window, reinforce it with plywood and long nails from outside. All outer doors may be reinforced further to prevent any loosening of the same and become dangerous flying objects in the wind. The damage caused by flying objects is even worse. If you have hurricane shutters for your home, the better
    4. Chop of feeble trees and branches: Outside your house, if there are hanging tree branches or low rooted heavy trees, it is a good idea to chop them off and dispose in a distant place much before the hurricane hits
    5. Car gas levels: Make sure that your car has at least half tank gas because it may be hard to find an operational gas station in the event of a hurricane. Even if there is one, there may be long queues in emergency. Also, never park your cars under trees
    6. Plan for your pets: Pets are not allowed in shelter homes and hence you need to plan to keep them in a relative’s place or with a pet caretaker home
    7. Books, crayons, paper and pencils for kids: In the event of a power failure, kids may not have any entertainment mechanisms like TV, DVD players or games and it may be a good time to play with some crayons, puzzles and even some family indoor games. Be sure to stock up them, especially if you have stubborn kids

Monitor and weather the situation

Even before the hurricane hits it’s important to keep track of the predictions and related news to get to know what measures to take before and during the hurricane. In certain cases, evacuation may be advised in which case you must not take any risk and move your family a few hundred miles away in a relative’s home, shelter or even in a hotel. National Hurricane Center keeps issuing warnings and safety measures for any forthcoming hurricane situation and it’s important for you to listen to them via radio or any public announcements.

And finally, if your decision is to stay indoors, respect that decision at any cost. It may be tempting to videograph or take pictures of the roars and chaos outside but please be warned that many people lose their lives that way. Needless to say, you may not open any doors or windows if at all you have to shoot some pictures from inside but use any glass paneled windows or possible eyelets.