Report found many cyber security breaches start with weak password

Stop reading this article.

Stop, right now and go change the passwords on your sensitive accounts. (But come back when you’re done.)

A recent report from Trustwave – a Chicago-based company that helps businesses reduce the risk of cybercrimes – found consumers still are leaving themselves vulnerable to a cyber hack.

The Trustwave report, which investigated more than 500 data compromises in 15 countries, found 28 percent of online security breaches resulted from weak passwords.

And for those of you currently changing your passwords, remember “Password1” is not good enough, although it’s still the most commonly used, according to Trustwave. (“Welcome1,” “P@ssword,” “Summer1!” and “password” round out the top five most common.)

Passwords that are eight characters or less take only one day to crack, Trustwave found. By adding just two characters, it can take hackers 591 days to crack.

McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Aimee Knop has conducted cyber security and identity theft educational classes for the community. She offered this advice: “Don’t have the same password for all accounts. Use numbers, letters, upper and lower case, symbols.”

“The more complicated the password is, the better chance it is for you to be protected,” she said.

When making online transactions, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s Office suggests consumers always use a secure browser. Most legitimate businesses use encryption technology to enable consumers to safely send personal data such as credit card numbers and banking information online. Encryption technology scrambles personal information for transmission and decodes it only once it has safely reached the intended vendor, the office said. To ensure you are using a secure browser, look for a web address that begins with “https” instead of “http” on the pages that ask for personal information.

Madigan’s office has instituted an Identity Theft Unit and Hotline that reportedly has helped remove more than $27 million worth of fraudulent charges on more than 37,000 Illinois consumers’ accounts, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Often, breaches aren’t detected immediately. Trustwave found the average breach wasn’t detected for 86 days, and 81 percent did not notice it themselves.

“The majority of compromises we investigated were discovered by parties external to the victim – regulatory bodies, card brands or merchant banks in 58 percent of our sample. In 2014, law enforcement was first to discover 12 percent of the compromises we investigated, compared to just 3 percent in the year prior,” the Trustwave report said.

That’s why it’s “extremely important” to monitor activity on bank accounts and credit card statements, Knop said.

“Checking statements once a month could be too late,” she said.

In recent years, the sheriff’s office has increased its educational efforts on cyber attacks and scams, and found that in turn, residents are more vigilant.

“We’ve seen an increase in people saying, ‘This scam is going on. I didn’t fall for it, but I want you to be aware it’s happening,’ ” Knop said. “We’ve really upped our education on scams, and we’re hopeful it’s working and that people are catching it before it’s too late.”

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