Comparitech.com, the privacy advice and security comparison website, warns that each time a user opens an account, such as a social media, online shopping or email account, it greatly increases the “attack surface” a cyber criminal can exploit, especially if they continue to use the same username and passwords.
Comparitech.com,together with OnePoll found that 49% of the UK public confessed to not deleting accounts on the web that they no longer use.
The firm warns that each time a user opens an account, such as a social media, online shopping or email account, it greatly increases the “attack surface” a cyber criminal can exploit, especially if they continue to use the same username and passwords.
To mark the start of European Cyber Security Month and Security Serious Week in the UK, Lee Munson, security researcher for Comparitech.com is urging people to take the opportunity to perform some cyber hygiene. He said in a blog:
“While [deleting old accounts] may not seem like such a big deal, remember MySpace? All those users who forgot about their old accounts that they maybe haven’t touched in ten years were part of a huge data breach just this year. And though you might say it doesn’t bother you that hackers saw what kind of music you were into ten years ago or the silly videos you made – think about the how many other accounts you might have on the web using the exact same login and password.
“That is the dangerous part. Each time you create a new account, your attack surface – as those in the industry say – increases and you become an easier target. Combine these details with other personal details you have may have sprinkled around the website, and you have now become prime pickings for identity fraud.
”The same is true for the largest ever data breach that happened in 2012 involving Yahoo users, though details were only released last week. Five hundred million records! That’s astonishing. Despite the fact that Yahoo does say it deletes inactive accounts after a year, 365 days is still plenty of time for criminals to take advantage.”
To help, he has come up with five ways web users can tidy up their cyber lives:
1.Delete old user accounts. Each time you create an online account with a new company and share personal information, it is one more potential opportunity for hackers.
2.Don’t use the same password for more than one account. Using the same password for multiple accounts is like having one key that opens your car, your house, your safe and your bicycle lock – if someone gets hold of it, you are in big trouble. A password manager can help and there are lots of good free password managers available including LastPass, Dashlane and KeePass.
3. Don’t login to online accounts over free WiFi. Free WiFi often presents an easy target for hackers to intercept your personal data and account login details.
4. If two factor authentication is available, use it.
5. Keep your operating system up to date. System updates often patch security loopholes. Hackers know that not everyone runs the latest system and will exploit vulnerabilities in old operating systems.