Last week, Yahoo announced that at least half a billion of its users’ accounts had been hacked from the company’s computer network back in 2014.
Yahoo has placed the blame for the massive theft — which may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers — on a “state-sponsored actor.”
The sheer size of the intrusion is striking, and the fact that it is being accredited to a national government is disturbing.
But the truth is that the Yahoo breach is simply one more example of just how vulnerable all of us who use the internet are to cyber theft.
Whether you are a U.S. Democratic presidential nominee whose campaign network was violated by Russia, a motion picture studio that had the Social Security numbers and salaries of 50,000 of its workers exposed by North Korea as payback for a movie that didn’t sit well with Kim Jung-un, or a film star whose nude pictures were commandeered from her iCloud and plastered all over YouTube, the mere fact that your data is virtual makes your personal information susceptible to intrusion.
And you don’t have to be a politician or large corporation to fall prey to hackers.
The average Joe Blow who accidentally opens an email titled “urgent” or the elderly grandmother who inadvertently clicks on a file that claims to be from her bank are just are vulnerable to internet criminals.
Cybersecurity is a myth, and the rapidly evolving internet landscape is a virtual no-man’s-land.
No sooner do electronic technology corporations develop new encryptions and firewalls than dark web trawlers find a way to crack them.
Consequently, we cannot depend on our McAfee or Norton to protect us.
Essentially, the internet is an untamed Wild, Wild West, and we are all responsible for our own security.
What can you do to protect your information?
Exactly what your techy computer nerd friends have been telling you to do from the first day you got a computer: Change your passwords often. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Use complex passwords that include symbols and numbers, as well as letters. Avoid using public internet services. And do not place crucial, personal data on your computer, smart phone or cloud.
Otherwise, sooner or later, you will be hacked.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.