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Will Two-Factor Passwords Be the New Normal for Web Life?
About.com: Robert: thank you for your time. Being a network security specialist must be both very technical and very frustrating: you see exciting technologies evolve, and you also see how people's lives are negatively impacted when the bad guys win. Can you tell us more about your work, and why you find it so interesting to be in networking security?
For the past 30 years I've been embedded in the world of personal security as it relates to violence and theft prevention. These issues used to be primarily physical world proiblems and now they've significantly moved into the realm of the virtual world too. My daily routine consists of consuming all that is wrong and bad in the world and breaking it down so people understand how to proactively prevent it from happening to them.
About.com Question 1: The Public Is Being Hurt by Password Theft? Large-scale hacking and credential theft is so commonplace now. Mt.Gox had $460 million bitcoins hacked in spring of this year. the Target chain of stores had its customers' credit card information credentials stolen this last Thanksgiving. Sony Playstation Network and Gawker were hacked several months ago to the tune of 77+ million users' credentials. And now a Russian crime ring has been uncovered as having pilfered 1.2 billion user names and passwords. Is this a worrisome trend? How does this hurt and impact us as private individuals using the Web?
It has been said that in the year 2000 that bad guys were about one year behind the good guys in technology. By 2004 they were neck and neck with the good guys. Today, the bad guys seem to be winning in many facets of technology that may one day cause such havoc that the lights may go off and bank accounts end up entirely empty, and that scares me. Every little breach is like a stone in a pond. The ripple effects may not have immediate impact, but they eventually trickle down and affect you and me in multiple ways. A compromised account can cause time and financial headaches that result in martial disputes and so on. That's what is so wrong about all this data insecurity.
About.com Question 2: How Hackers Do These Large-Scale Thefts. I know this can be a very technical topic, but you can explain to us how these criminals access private databases and steal our password credentials? Perhaps give us a semi-technical overview of the holes in our websites and how the hackers get in there?
There are a number of ways data gets hacked. the most common include criminal hackers looking for vulnerabilities in a company's networks such as flaws in hardware, software or outdated systems that can be compromised. But even the most secure system can be overtaken by a savvy criminal who simply sends an email or makes a phone call and tricks a company employee into giving up his credentials to log into a network. Once in, the criminal can do significant damage.
About.com Question 3: Is Two-Factor Authentication the new normal?: Robert, please tell us about 2FA, and how you think it can help. How does 2FA work? Will it stop these large-scale password thefts? How much does 2FA cost?
Many of the recent data breaches have exposed passwords as a common denominator.And as you know, if someone gets hold of your password, then your account—and all the data in it—is vulnerable.
But there's an easy way to protect your critical accounts from hackers and other infiltrators: Set up a two-factor-verified authentication system. With a two-factor-verified system, knowing your password is only the first step. To get any further, hackers will need to know the second factor, which is a special code (another password, also known as a "one time password" or OTP) that only you know and that changes every time you log in. Accessing your account will be a virtual impossibility. Best of all, it's free.
If you're interested in setting up a two-factor-verified system on your accounts, follow the directions below for the major platforms:
Google. Go to google.com/2step. Click the blue button, upper right corner, that says “Get Started.” Follow the prompts that then lead to the process; choose text message or a phone call to receive your code. Your setup now applies to all Google services including YouTube.
Yahoo. After signing in to your Yahoo account, you can begin Yahoo’s “Second Sign-In Verification” setup by hovering over your photo to trigger a drop-down menu. Click “Account Settings,” then click “Account Info.” Scroll to “Sign-In and Security,” and click the link “Set up your second sign-in verification.” Submit your phone number to receive a code via text. No phone? Yahoo will send you security questions.
About.com Question 4: What Can a User Do? People don't need to be reminded that good computer hygiene and rotating passwords is good sense. But can you offer us suggestion on what people can practically do to avoid being a hacker victim? Are there some tools or techniques that can help without adding too much burden on us users?
Laptop or PC
Smartphone or tablet
About.com Question 5: Where Do We Go for More Password Details? Robert, please tell us where you personally go online for your news and information? Are there favorite resources and blogs that you frequent? Are there some online resources that would be helpful for the everyperson to become more security-savvy?
RSS feeds and Google news alerts keep me informed. Google News key words such as "scam" "identity theft" "hacker" "data breach" and more keep me current on new security issues. With my RSS feeds, certainly About.com, WSJ Tech, ABCNews.com, Wired and a slew of tech trade publications keep me up to the minute. My philosophy is to always be on top of what is new and ahead of what is next at all times. This is how to be proactive, and neither me or my readers/audiences can be caught off guard.
About.com Question 6: Final Thoughts for Our Readers. Robert, do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers? Any advice for them?
We wear our seat belt because we know its just a matter of time before something bad happens. Information security is no different. This is why being proactive and vigilant is essential. Putting systems in place and maintaining those systems will keep most people safe and secure.
About Robert Siciliano:
Robert is an expert in personal security and identity theft and a consultant to Hotspot Shield. He is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His “tell it like it is” style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace.