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Hacking Can Destroy Your Digital Life

Cloud data storage is becoming more popular, but it's not without risk.

As you get more and more comfortable with "cloud computing," it is more important than ever to remain vigilant at all times to protect your data. An article on ABC News recently shed light on a phenomenon that is becoming more widespread every day: destruction of your online identity.

We have become accustomed to protecting things such as bank accounts and social security numbers while existing online, but what would you do if your online identity - Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo - was suddenly captured by someone bent to do you harm?

This specific scenario is particularly hard to defend against because you have an attacker who obviously has detailed knowledge of weaknesses in account verification procedures at the different companies, is targeting an individual person, and is using information that's generally publicly available to his advantage. In general there are several things that people can do to help protect themselves:

  1. Don't reuse the same password across multiple sites, especially when that password is tied to the same email address or username...always use a unique password for your email address as well
  2. Enable two-factor authentication on any account that allows it (like Gmail)
  3. When answering security questions on different sites, don’t answer questions with information that is publicly available or easily attainable (mother’s maiden name, high school, etc.)
  4. Enable account update alerts if you’re able to...some sites will send you notifications whenever something about your account has changed automatically, but other sites may require you to enable those notifications
  5. Never enter credentials on a site that isn’t using SSL/TLS. Enable secure browsing whenever possible. If it's not done automatically, some sites will allow you to prepend "https://" to the URL to enable an SSL/TLS session. Facebook even has an account setting that will automatically force HTTPS for all of your sessions.

By taking these simple steps, you can protect your identity in the cloud.

- Derek Spransy, Information Security Specialist, OIT Enterprise Security