You may think that hackers are like these guys in the movies, sitting in front of a computer, typing like crazy and trying out every possible alphanumerical combination to finally pin down your password. You couldn't have been more wrong: in fact in most cases of hacking you are responsible. But don't worry: now you can learn how to keep danger off the bay.
If you really believe that all it takes to hack into an account is typing in random combinations of letter and numbers than you have no idea what's going on in the minds of your opponents. Just a few numbers to consider: your password in many services has to be at least 8 characters long, with at least two numbers. That gives you more than 400 billions of combinations. At a speed of two passwords per second that would take more than a lifetime of a hacker... and many generations of his or her descendants. Unless...
You are guilty of reusing passwords. Sometimes even those leaked ones. You can check if your password has leaked somewhere on PwnedList. If you know that it's out, then it's out. Don't use it ever again, or you compromise your safety. Especially when it comes to your e-mail account - since you register into a lot of services by providing your e-mail account, a hacker who has obtained access to your e-mail account can easily reset your passwords and get to your other accounts. It's as if you have given the keys to your house to a complete stranger, and left all the other keys - to your car, office, bank vault - on the most visible shelf back home.
You are guilty of using outdated Java and downloading untrustworthy applications. This way you can fast get a keylogger stuck onto your hard drive. Why is it so dangerous? Keyloggers register every character you type on your keyboard and they can also make screenshots and take photos from your webcam. All these files are later sent to a hacker on the other end of the line, and they can gain all the important information regarding your online banking passwords, credit card numbers, and even spy on you if your job is somehow connected to security.
Fix: Don't download files you are not sure about. Never use outdated software when browsing the Internet. Have a comprehensive security suite.
You are guilty of answering potentially harmful e-mails and visiting shady websites. You might have received some e-mails that landed in your SPAM box, but you still believe that it's from your bank? Do you really think that you would be contacted via an e-mail when it comes to some important issues?
Once you have clicked a link delivered with such a message, you will be redirected to a website that resembles your bank's site. You will be prompted to type in your login and password, and then you lose connection with the website. Now you have given all your details to the hackers.
Fix: Never provide any third-party website with your login and password or some security guard codes. Always double-check if the website you are logging into provides you with an encrypted connection (there should be a padlock icon in the address bar) and check the sites' safety certificates. Never be greedy: if a website promises to give you something valuable completely for free there is certainly a fraud involved.
You are guilty of revealing too much data on social networking sites. Do you really think that anyone is interested in where you have attended high school, or what was you first pet's name? Well, there is: a hacker. Online services often ask you to provide them with such "unique" information so if you would like to reset your password in the future, you would only have to give the answers to your security questions. But let's face it, a lot of people could already have learned the answers to your questions, making them not that secure anymore.
Fix: Don't reveal the answers to your security questions in any quizzes, questionnaires, or funny games. Preferably you should choose other means of securing and resetting your password, but if that's not possible try to think about the answer that is as safe as possible. Doing something such as thinking about your mother's childhood pet or your best friend's high school instead of yours might do the trick.
You are guilty of not securing your e-mail password enough. Let's face it, how many of us reuse e-mail password in another services or only use a short, easy-to-guess (such as the name of your pet or your maiden name) ones? If you lose access to your e-mail account, it may be game over for you, as you automatically lose access to many other services that are in one way or another connected with that mother-of-all-accounts.
Fix: Set up as many security means as possible when it comes to your e-mail account. Have a really strong password, preferably choose a two-step identity confirmation, and don't let anyone reset your password jsut because they know your first love's name was Brian.
Hacking: you're thinking it wrong
We have watched too much Matrix and thus we believe that by hitting your keyboard at random you can gain instant access to any user's account. Unless a password is obvious the chances for guessing it just like that are next to zero.
In the majority of cases of password theft you are not only the victim, but also the culprit. Hackers cannot break your password unless you store it in an encrypted file on your hard drive or in a cloud, and obtaining access to such files isn't that easy anyway. Only if they have an encrypted file containing passwords they can try to brute-force the encryption and retrieve your logins and passwords - but that's time-consuming and difficult.
If you keep your passwords secure - long and complicated enough, no pet's names, no reusing, then you can remain sure that they will remain safe and sound. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.