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Email breach shows need to change passwords

Posted: 9:43 PM, Mar 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-29 22:54:00-04

This data hack is huge -- 1.4 billion passwords are now floating around on the dark web. In December, a massive data leak was discovered, and many computer gurus are capable of accessing the information, said cybersecurity expert Dan Petro. 

"Certainly like one of the biggest password leaks ever," said Petro.

Hackers combined smaller lists with new hacked data into one massive database.

"If you're like almost everybody else, you probably just have one password or maybe a small set of passwords you use for basically everything. So having these leaked online is threatening not just to your one account but perhaps all the other ones," Petro said.

Rob Hanna was one of the many internet users whose password was exposed. Within seconds of accessing the database, someone could easily find his hacked password and email.

"I’m really quite stunned about that. That's scary. And I've been pretty careful about trying to really manage that for a lot of years," said Hanna.

Even if your bank account password is different, Petro said with access to your email account, hackers can get into your bank using the "forgot password" feature. It often emails you a link that lets you or a hacker set up a new password.

Security experts recommend frequently changing passwords, using hard-to-guess passwords. For those who have a tough time remembering passwords, something called 2-factor authentication can help.

Most email services let you turn it on in your settings. Whenever someone tries to sign into your account from a new computer or phone, not only do they need your password but a secret code texted from your email company to your phone. You must enter both.

"That way if your password gets leaked in a large online database such as this one attacker still won't be able to log in," said Petro.

Hanna, who has kept a spreadsheet of his emails and passwords for different sites, now has a task ahead of him: figure out which of the several dozen logins he uses must be changed so no one does any damage using his hacked information.

"So if that kind of got out and someone really wanted to kind of take a run at me that could give them a lot control," Hanna said.