Latest information from Yahoo indicate that some of its customers' email accounts were compromised in a recent cyber-attack.
According to time.com, Yahoo has the world’s second-largest email service after Google, the Associated Press reports, with 273 million users worldwide and 81 million in the United States. The company said affected users have been prompted to reset their passwords by email notification or text message.
The attack is the second problem for Yahoo mail users in as many months. In December, Yahoo mail experienced an outage that left many users without email access for days.
Forbes contributor, James Lyne provides some helpful tips on how you can protect your password:
1. Avoid using the same password across multiple sites and services. That way, if Yahoo credentials are breached hackers won’t be able to jump across in to your Twitter, online banking, work accounts or alike. I know this presents a memory challenge for some users, but see the below tip on password managers.
2. Choose a password which is not easy to guess. Words with a dictionary root followed by numerals are very common choices and predictable patterns that cyber criminals can use to crack your password very fast. Passwords should be long, phrase based and involve a balance of different types of characters – numbers, letters, capitols and ideally a few symbols. See my fabulous example below.
3. Set up password change/reset mechanisms properly – not obviously. Password reset forms on many services ask questions like “Where did you go to school?” or “In which year were you born?”. These questions are easy to answer and can typically be mined from social media pages or the Internet — why would hackers guess your password if they can just tell a system where you went to school and how old you are (you did after all announce your birthday last year on Twitter and your age, didn’t you?). Instead I suggest lying on the Internet. Come up with a scheme of answers to these questions that you won’t forget (or store securely) or better still, if the service allows, specify your own difficult questions.
4. Bigger = better! When passwords are stolen from providers they are typically in a hashed or encrypted form, a bit like this ’5f4dcc3b5aa765d61d8327deb882cf99′. This is a hashed password representation and using clever techniques and computing power attackers can reverse the original password and log in to your account. When they steal these hashes it is only a matter of time and effort until they reveal the original. Short passwords might be guessed in second to minutes or hours (it depends on the implementation), where very long passwords could take years of work (and the cyber criminals are likely to go after someone else). Therefore making your password 60 characters makes life much harder for the cyber criminals if they do manage to break in to a service like Yahoo. This of course all assumes the provider isn’t just storing your password in clear text – in which case you will be very glad of tip number 1!
5. Use a password manager. Password managers generate strong unique passwords for each of your services and then store them in an encrypted database which you can unlock with one good master password. It is a reasonable compromise for those that do not have an amazing memory but don’t want to fall in to the pitfall of repeating similar passwords across multiple sites. See below for more information on how this works.
6. Register to a breach monitoring service. There are a variety of services on the Internet now which monitor for visible lists of stolen usernames/passwords. Of course, not all breaches are visible so it is far from a complete list. That said, if your username shows up it will e-mail you a notification and tell you it is time to change.