What Happens Post-Hack?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The recent hack on big online retailer Zappos which affected roughly 24 million people highlights how important it is, going forward, for consumers to set an adequate password.

Odds are, if a consumer is involved in any sort of online banking, shopping or conducts other types of business via the Internet, he or she will, at some point, have their personal data compromised in some way thanks to hackers. In fact, hackers seem to be getting more and more aggressive these days and coordinating more frequent attacks.

For example, some 24 million Zappos customers were recently issued an email by the online retailer informing them of the likelihood that their personal information has been snagged during a data breach on one of their servers. Names, billing and shipping information, email addresses and phone numbers were among the compromised information.  “The good news,” as the company framed it, was that credit card and other payment data was unaffected.

In addition to notifying all of their customers of the problem via email, Zappos took precautions to protect them.

“They reset everyone’s passwords instantly — that’s good. It was proactive. They locked down your old one and forced you to create a new one,” said Brian Hjelm, who is the vice president of marketing for the security firm CSID, which is based out of Austin, as reported by The Statesman.

Resetting the password on a hacked account is the most important step for an individual to take, and it should be done as quickly as possible.

In general, passwords can often times be problematic. While the best, most secure passwords are a combination of capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, they can be prove difficult to remember.

Another bad password habit many people have, aside from setting ones that are too easy to guess, is using the same one for multiple websites. The problem with that practice is that should one site be breached by hackers and the login information stolen, it allows them the ability to access more than one account. It is particularly important for consumers to use a different email address as a username on any sites visited to conduct business from those used for personal sites. Creating a separate email address for shopping and signing up for other Web services is one method to avoid this.

For anyone who has grown accustomed to using the same email and password combination on a wide variety of websites, Hjelm advises that, “you need to go and make sure you’re resetting all those passwords. That’s the biggest risk at this point. If you use that same user name and password (from your Zappos account) on your Wells Fargo account, you’re in big trouble.”

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