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Over 15 Billion Stolen Passwords on the Dark Web—Here's How to Protect Yours

Learn How to Protect Yourself Online

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During the pandemic, the world made a drastic shift from in-person to remote working and schooling. While online activities were meant to keep everyone virtually together while physically apart, it's also led to an alarming surge in cybercrime such as phishing, email hacking, ransomware, malware, and more. According to Australia-based IT Brief, there was a 400 percent increase in cybercrime during the first four months of 2020 compared with previous months.

In another study, data shows that there was a 300 percent increase in the number of stolen usernames and passwords since 2018. That means that, currently, there are more than 15 billion stolen passwords on the dark web that have been taken from social media accounts, online banking data, and streaming services.

What's scary about all this isn't just the notion that hackers have your private information to sell and buy, but that you probably aren't even aware that it's happening. Even worse, that you may have unwittingly given cybercriminals easy access to your data. Don't fret though: It isn't too late to protect you and your loved ones, as there are several steps that you can take to keep your online activities private and safe.

How Am I Being Hacked?

Hackers typically get access to your personal files through your IP address. Your Internet protocol (IP) address is basically a string of numbers that identifies your device whenever you connect to the World Wide Web. Once connected, your router assigns you a public IP, and every website that you visit can see this IP address and your physical location. Hackers can then look up your online activity associated with your IP address and hack into your system.

They can also get access to your data through your associated passwords. According to Thycotic, 80 percent of all cybersecurity breaches involve a weak or stolen password. Facebook claims that over 600,000 accounts are hacked every day. On the surface, this may not look like much, but accounts can be held for ransom, and most people have a lot of personal information and private conversations on their social media that they wouldn't want to be plastered all over the Internet.

People can become lazy when it comes to applying and changing their passwords on different types of accounts—from banking to social media and otherwise. In fact, a lot of people still use their birthdays or pet names, and then there are those who use the same password for all of their platforms—which makes things even easier for a hacker.

How to Avoid Being Subject to Hacking

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Pay Better Attention to Your Online Habits

Plenty of people get hacked without their knowledge. Some scammers send out emails, for example, pretending to be a bank or credit card company, and claiming to have noticed suspicious activity on an individual's account. Victims then unknowingly give away their credentials, allowing hackers access to their bank accounts and giving them the ability to jeopardize their financial well-being. This is also known as phishing. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that Americans lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.

Take extra care in checking whether a particular website is legitimate and do a quick background search. This holds especially true for online shopping, which is the most common scam reported to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In the first seven months of 2020, 38 percent of complaints to the BBB's Scam Tracker involved online shopping, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. If you are shopping online and a website is offering a deal that is too good to be true, don't offer up your information right away. In fact, do not download applications from unknown sources, in general, as hackers can access your phone's activity and related credit card information from your shopping habits.

Ensure Your Personal Information Is Not Easily Accessible

If you have a picture of your passport on your phone and/or your computer, you should know that these can be sold for up to $1,500. If you desperately need to have a digital copy of your ID, keep it encrypted in storages like NordLocker.

In a nutshell, encryption is a means of hiding your information by making it look like random data on your device. NordLocker basically protects your personal information by encrypting the files that you drop into it and making them unrecognizable to anyone but you. Since you will be the only one with access to your encryption key on NordLocker, you can rest easy knowing that your information will stay safe and secure at all times.

Use Unique Passwords Across Different Platforms

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to change your passwords every few months anymore. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it's more important to ensure that you use strong, unique, and complex passwords across your chosen platforms. This means that you shouldn't use the same password on any two websites nor should you use passwords that are even remotely similar to one another. They also recommend having two-factor authentication in place for extra security.

According to Webroot, a strong password is long (the longer, the better), isn't connected to your personal information, isn't a dictionary word, and consists of a mix of numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters. If you are having trouble coming up with a strong password, you can try NordPass's password generator to help you out.

Use an Encryption Service

The most important thing is to be extra cautious about the information that you share online and the links that you click on. To keep your communication and information from being intercepted, you can use an encryption service. The most popular encryption service is a virtual private network or VPN.

A VPN is a service that can protect your Internet connection and online privacy by encrypting your Internet traffic and hiding your IP address so that third parties and hackers can't spy on your online activity. It basically gives you anonymity when you are online, shielding your data from the prying eyes of computer hackers.

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NordVPN Can Protect You and Your Loved Ones Online

As one of the world's leading VPN services, NordVPN has an ultrafast connection and offers secure browsing access to over 5,500 servers worldwide. They also allow you to use up to six devices with ease.

By masking your IP address with NordVPN, you will have complete online security and privacy. Although your passwords will not be compromised, this does not mean that you should be lazy and set your password to 'password' across the board. Still, try to have as many different passwords as possible. If you are worried you won't be able to remember all of them, you can use a password manager like NordPass to store them all, away from the claws of hackers.

Another bonus is that all of your Internet traffic will be re-routed through a remote server so you can even access websites that are restricted in your country. If your favorite TV show is no longer on Netflix but is available on the U.K. version, NordVPN is the answer.

Buy an already discounted two-year plan with 68 percent off and automatically get extra service time as a gift. Depending on your luck, you'll get one-month, one-year, or two-year extra subscription time, which will be automatically added on top of the plan you've bought. They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee plus great online savings.

Stay safe and secure online with NordVPN now!

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