Passwords and Hacking and Prevention

If you have been on the Internet for any amount of time, you have dealt with at least the first two items of this article title: Passwords and Hacking (whether you know it or not).

Just about everything we do on the Internet requires us to set up an account to some degree.  Most of the time it’s as simple as submitting your name and email (for joining Newsletter lists, etc.).  These very simple forms you complete do not require a password.  Your email and name are just automatically added to a subscriber list, and every time a newsletter goes out you receive it in your inbox.  This is pretty straight forward and relatively safe, provided you trust the website with whom you registered.

Most subscriber emails are sent using programs such as MailChimp or Constant Contact or the like.

So your email address is actually going into a database with one of these providers automatically upon form submission.  And if you decided you don’t want to receive that email any more, if the company is respectable, they provide an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email.  When you click that link, your name and email are automatically removed from the database.

That’s the simple stuff and provided the website owner is on the up and up, you should have no problems.

But it’s the accounts we create with passwords that can cause us trouble.  Email, WordPress websites, and any accounts we create in vendor websites with whom we do business can be at risk.  I cannot go into all the ways hackers and thieves figure out  your passwords, but suffice it to say there are programs running 24/7 trying to figure them out.  AND, it’s not only programs; there are humans sitting there working at it too.  It’s a full-time job.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if only they used their powers for good.  But I digress.

I was reading one of my favorite Internet publishers recently, Leo Notenboom of Ask Leo (, about receiving emails that appear to be from a friend, but the “From” email address does not match my friend’s actual email.  And there is only an obscure link in the body of the email.  Obviously I don’t click the link AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU if you receive such a thing!

If you are ever concerned that an email looks suspicious, contact that person directly by phone or via a new email you create, and ask if they really did send it to you and if the content matches what they sent. Never reply to the email itself, nor click on any links.

I have received a few of these obviously fraudulent emails and wondered if I was hacked, or someone got my name from a list, or if the friend it “appeared” to come from was hacked.  So here’s what Leo says about it:

Spam from friends

…  the bottom line for a scenario like this (the telltale sign for me) is that:

  • The email contained only a clickable link.
  • The email account that it came from was hacked.

Now, what email account did it come from? Well, that’s really hard to say. Since this is someone you know, the display name that was used was someone you know. My guess is someone you know … had his email account hacked.

I recommend you read this entire article because to be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Or at least fore-educated.  Yeah, I made that word up. But really, it’s information you can use and understand.

So what about the Prevention part?

Well, you’re probably not going to like it.  Most people don’t but I’m telling you THIS is what you need to do:

  1. Make your passwords difficult enough that you won’t even be able to memorize them.
    When you are asked to create a password, you can AND SHOULD use symbols (#, @,  $, %, !, *), numbers, and both upper and lower case letters. This means you will have to record the password in some manner because, if you’re anything like me, you have many logins and passwords.  I don’t use the same login and password for anything – all are different so if one account gets hacked, the others are still safe.  There are programs that will keep track of your logins/passwords, but I don’t even do that.  I’m extra paranoid.  I keep mine in a password-protected Excel spreadsheet, which I print out periodically (I have a lot of accounts).  You may say, “but your computer could get hacked and there goes everything.” Well, I do have a very good firewall (a great topic to read about at Leo’s), and a very strong security program called ESET.To be honest, I did start out by hand-writing everything on paper, but it got too long of a list; I had to do it on the computer.

    What if someone breaks into my office? I keep my list under a pile of papers and, unless the robbers are into stealing small business data for informational espionage, they’re not going to even think to look for it.

    I guess I’ve thought about this more than I realized!

  2. Change your passwords at least every few months.
    Now this can be a difficult one to keep up with and I don’t do this with every account.  However for the ones I frequent such as my WordPress website and email, I do change them.  These are two of the hottest items to get hacked.

This may all sound like a pain, but it’s not NEARLY as painful as fixing a hacking situation!!  These efforts will pay off.  To keep up with this just go through your calendar and mark the first day of every second or third month as “Account Safety Day.”  Peruse through your most important accounts, checking that the information is up to date, and change that password!


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