Hackers have exposed millions of passwords from Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Sadly, password compromise is so common that it barely even registers as news any more. Suffice to say that it's probably time to change your password again.
Ideally, a compromised Twitter password would only enable an attacker to access Twitter, and an exposed Facebook password would only let an attacker get into a Facebook account. Unfortunately, no matter how often security experts advise, remind, beg, plead, or demand that users choose unique passwords for each site or service, most choose a favorite password, and run it into the ground--using it (or as close a variation of it as password policy permits) everywhere.
One of McAfee's countless security experts, Monica Hamilton, explains, "Business owners and consumers alike have the tendency to use the same passwords or similar passwords for their financial, personal and business accounts." She adds, "We have seen through this massive Facebook, Gmail and Twitter hack that people are more vulnerable then they realize."
On the up side, many sites have embraced some form of two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication in place, it takes more than an exposed password to compromise an account. The attacker would need to also have access to the second factor--which is generally a hardware token of some sort, or a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.
Mike Shema, director of engineering for Qualys, says, "Looking toward 2014, two-factor authentication will continue to gain momentum throughout enterprise and consumer technology, and many apps will begin to adopt two-factor as well."
Shema recognizes that data breaches exposing passwords are more or less a fact of life that can't be avoided. He is optimistic, though, that more sites and services will adopt Facebook's approach of proactively freezing potentially exposed accounts. "This would limit the value of the exposed accounts to attackers and remind users of the need to maintain separate passwords for their accounts."
Two-factor authentication would definitely be an improvement, but the crux of the problem right now has to do with users refusing to choose unique passwords for each service. There is a general perception that these incidents only happen to other people, and that trying to manage 10 or 20 or more separate passwords is just more effort than its worth.
Bill Carey, Siber Systems VP of Marketing. "What compounds these problems is that many people use the same password for multiple purposes--social media sites, e-commerce sites, healthcare accounts, banking and more. We want people to know that there is a better solution. By using a password manager they can maintain different passwords for every purpose, without the inconvenience of having to remember each one."
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