Lessons from 2012 Data Breaches: Six Tips for Consumers

Hackers have been busy this year, and some big companies have been paying for this recent productivity: LinkedIn, Dropbox, eHarmony, Yahoo!, Formspring, Last.fm—the list goes on. These companies had their customer data compromised, suffered a serious blow to their security reputation, and faced a hefty price tag to boot.

What have we learned about online safety from these unfortunate incidents? Below are six tips to help consumers stay safe following the 2012 breaches.

A Weak Password = No Password

For years, security experts have been warning consumers and businesses alike about the risks surrounding a weak password. But has it made a difference? Even if some people have heeded the call for stronger passwords, others have dismissed the warnings and opted for passwords like “password” and “123456”. Often times a weak password is just as good as no password.

Strong Passwords: Creative and Diverse

To enhance your password, use a bit more creativity to take yourself out of the low-hanging fruit category. Sometimes, a simple mix of a-z, 0-9, and symbols can be the difference between being hacked or not. Try to be a bit more adventurous than “1111111”.

While it’s not always the most convenient, try to use a different password for each of your online accounts. There is always the risk of a breach on the provider’s side, but if logins are varied, a compromised password won’t result in immediate access to your other online accounts.

Beware of Unfamiliar Emails

When is the last time you received an email from a traveler who lost all their cash, passport, and needed you to lend them some money to get home? Most people have wised up and know those emails mean nothing but trouble, but online scams have evolved. Today hackers are using more advanced techniques and it’s getting harder to differentiate the fakes. Falling victim to these scams can lead to spamming your contacts, installing malware, or even compromising financial data like bank account and credit card numbers.

Recent phishing scams use legitimate-looking emails to ask consumers for account information, pay an overdue bill, or download a file. Even if the email seems real, it may be a clever fake. Always go directly to the website and login through their portal instead.

Social Engineering: Don’t Know Them? Don’t Click It

Avoid clicking random links! It’s hard to think critically when someone is tweeting they’ve found a picture of you – but before curiosity gets the best of you, stop and consider it’s likely a scam. Think before you click, and verify you actually know the person tweeting at you.

Install Proper Security and Update

Security software does require updating, but using the most recent version provides the best protection (despite the temporary system slow-down). Proper security is a necessity for today’s online landscape. Finally, there’s no point in buying top of the line security software if you postpone installing the new version – so update frequently.

Don’t Forget About Mobile

Mobile devices will soon outgrow the human population, so don’t forget about protecting your smartphone or tablet. With newer technologies like mobile payments and NFC, the threat is moving to mobile and hackers gain even more opportunity to compromise your data. Take some time to research security applications for your device, and invest in some peace of mind while on-the-go.


In the end, when it comes to a hacker stealing critical information, there is a lot you can do to make it as difficult as possible for them. Whether it’s a solid password, avoiding certain links and downloads, or security software – we hope you will keep in mind this summer’s breaches and take precautions online to protect you and your family.

For more information on how to maintain a safe presence online, follow us on Twitter @McAfeeSECURE.

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Story added 27. August 2012, content source with full text you can find at link above.