Sex workers in the Netherlands and their customers use the website Hooker.nl as an online forum.  It was recently disclosed that the site had been hacked and personal information of 250,000 sex workers and their customers was stolen.  While prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, there are concerns of embarrassment and blackmail as occurred when the website Ashley Madison which promotes affairs was hacked a few years ago.  The Hooker.nl data breach resulted in usernames, IP addresses and passwords being compromised.  While the passwords were encrypted, the form of encryption that was used is one that a determined identity thief could break.  Data breaches are an everyday occurrence and everyone should think twice before leaving any information on a website.

TIPS

One of the biggest lessons from the myriad of data breaches is to make sure that you use unique passwords for every online account that you have in order to avoid having a sensitive account, such as your online banking account compromised because you use the same password as you do for another relatively meaningless account that had poor security which led to a data breach in which your password was stolen.  This is also a reason for deleting old accounts you don’t use that could expose your passwords and other information.

Creating and remembering strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts is not as difficult as it may appear.  You can start with a strong base password constructed from a phrase, such as IDon’tLikePasswords. Add a few symbols like !!! and then adapt it for each account you have so that you will have a secure and easy to remember password for each of your online accounts.   Thus, your Amazon password could be IDon’tLikePasswords!!!AMA.

Another problem highlighted by these data breaches is that of your security question which allows you to change your password or gain access to your account if you forget your password.  Often, the answers to the questions can be found on social media or elsewhere on the media.  An easy solution to the problem is to make the answer to your security question nonsensical. For instance, if your security question is what is your mother’s maiden name, you can pick something ridiculous, such as “firetruck” as the answer. No hacker will ever be able to find the answer to this security question online and it is so silly that you will remember it.

Also, use dual factor authentication whenever possible so that even if your passwords are compromised, no one can access your account.

Also, with your email address commonly known by many scammers, you can expect to receive more phishing and more dangerous specifically targeted spear phishing emails that attempt to lure you into clicking on links containing malware or try to convince you to provide personal information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  Never click on links or provide personal information in response to an email or text message unless you are absolutely sure that the email or text message is legitimate.

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