Cyber scare prompts password protection

Usernames, passwords hacked

Americans are dealing with another major cyber scare after very disturbing headlines about Russian hackers.

The claims are startling, Hold Security, based in Wisconsin, says Russian hackers have stolen more than 1.2 billion user names and passwords.  The firm says four hundred and twenty thousand websites have been affected, but it will not say which ones.

"We were able to research this particular gang and find this staggering discovery," said Alex Holder, founder of Hold Security.

So far the company says that the hackers are not using the information to steal identities. Instead they're selling data to people who want to send those annoying spam messages that clutter our inboxes.

"Thankfully, this particular cyber gang is mostly interested in making money off spam. However, if it gets into other hands on this black market, these people can use these credentials to get into any account that has been compromised," said Alex Holder, found of Hold Security.

Experts say its shows websites need to do a better job of securing your information. Many web users are nervous about the ongoing threat posed by hackers.

"I work in financial services and it's a nightmare what's going on," said one woman as she used her computer in a cafe.

Hold Security has a history of uncovering security breaches, but the company does sell products and services designed to protect you from this very danger.

In fact, the hacker story on Hold Security's website includes a link to a new "Breach Notification Service" which is priced at just $120 dollars a month, with a two week money-back guarantee, unless it provides data right away.

Ruth to the Rescue wanted to speak with Hold Security about these services, but the company did not respond to an emailed request.

The FBI says the agency is aware of the news reports, but can't comment further.

Password Protection Guidelines

This story is a good reminder to all of us to practice password protection. Here are some steps you can take to protect your passwords.

1.    Choose passwords that are longer, about 10 to 12 characters make it tougher to crack.

2.    Mix things up. Use letters, symbols and numbers.

3.    Don't use something expected like your name, birthday or common words.

4.    Use different passwords. If your go-to password is hacked, it makes other accounts vulnerable.

5.    Never share passwords by phone, text or email. Legitimate companies will not ask for passwords.

6.    It's a good idea to keep your passwords in a secure place and out of plain sight.

7.    Never store personal information in an unsecured document on your computer.

8.    Don't ever share your passwords even with friends or  family.

9.   Maintain different passwords for your social media sites and your financial or banking accounts.

10. Finally, stay up to date with current security breaches.