How to protect your online information. Data Privacy Month is Jan. 28 to Feb. 28. (file photo)
Hackers want your information, and they’re
finding ever-more-diabolical ways to steal it. Luckily, USF’s Eunjin (EJ) Jung has
made it her job to foil these online thieves. The assistant professor of
computer science even has students build their own password-cracking software,
so she can teach them how to defend against unwanted snooping.
Is any password safe?
They’re up against a formidable foe. Cybercriminals
hack more than 1.5 million accounts worldwide every day and the number is
rising. A clear sign of where hacking technology is headed was revealed with the recent release of new software called ocl-Hashcat-plus that can guess
eight million passwords a second, and crack passwords as long as 55 characters—quite a leap from the previous capacity of 15.
Eunjin (EJ) Jung, assistant professor, computer
science, is an expert in Internet security and privacy. She focuses on
In the face of such powerful software, is any
password safe? “In a word, ‘No,’” says Jung. “Any password can be hacked given
enough time and resources.”
Don't make it easy for hackers
But all is not lost. Your best protection is still
to create long passwords/passphrases, using random letters, numbers, and
symbols. In fact, according to Jung, you can reduce your chances of becoming a
victim of fraud, identity theft, or worse in minutes by following a few simple
- Avoid common (and easy to crack) passwords
such as “password,” or “123456.” Don’t use names, addresses, birth dates, or
other personal information, which can be found in your email archive and on
social media sites.
- Avoid passages from books, even books in
languages other than English. They are easily searched by password-cracking
- Use unique passwords for each website you log
into. This will limit the damage if one of your accounts is compromised.
- Consider using password management
tools like KeePass and LastPass, which can generate random passwords for each
of your sites and store them in an encrypted database.
- But what’s the most secure option? Jung recommends multifactor authentication, a security
measure that involves a knowledge component (a password or PIN), a possession
component (an ATM card or mobile phone), and, in some instances, a biological
component (fingerprint or retina scan).
The bottom line? The more layers of security you
have, the better, Jung says.
by Ed Carpenter | Office of Communications and Marketing »email firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter @usfcanews