After an 11-month FBI probe dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi,” a Florida man was indicted for accessing the email accounts of more than 50 celebrities. The hacker reportedly used public information to guess the “secret” questions and was able to access the celebrity accounts.There are news stories every day about hackers, but many of us don’t really give them a second thought.  You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t really have anything to hide” or “Who would want to hack into my email?”  But consider how much of your life is connected to your email (bank accounts, social networks, etc.). For many of us, our email address is like our virtual home; if someone breaks into your virtual home, it can be devastating.Frankly, some of the advice we receive about protecting passwords is not particularly realistic. For example, changing your password every 30 days sounds great, but who can remember a new password every 30 days?Below are two simple yet helpful hints to protect your email.

Choose a Good Password

Does 123456, Password, iloveyou, babygirl or abc123 sound familiar to you? If so, you are one of the lucky ones who have the 20 most common passwords of all time, according to ZoneAlarm.com. There are hundreds of articles about generating strong passwords, but here are some useful tips and a handy tool.

One of the simplest things to do is to add numbers or special characters into your password. For example, take the password “ilovemom” (who doesn’t?). According to How Secure Is My Password, it would take hackers all of 13 minutes to hack this password. But if you simply capitalize the i, replace the o’s with zeros and the m’s with the # sign (Il0ve#0#), it would take 18 days to hack. Not exactly the most secure password in the world, but better than what you started with.

Use Two-Step Authentication

For years, corporate America has had access to something called two-step authentication to protect emails and documents and keep hackers from remotely logging in. For you nontechies, two-step authentication puts in an additional level of security by requiring a second form of authentication in addition to your “regular password” to access your account. The second form of authentication comes in various shapes and sizes, such as a keycard with a randomly generated password, a fingerprint or even a retina scan.

Until recently, two-step authentication was not available to the masses, but Gmail has recently rolled out two-step authentication. For the second form of authentication, Google can send you a text, a phone call, an authentication app or a single-use code that you can put in your wallet. So in addition to logging into Gmail with your email and password, with two-step verification you’ll have to go through the added trouble of entering a second code. This will “approve” the computer you’re currently logging in from for 30 days, so you don’t have to do this every time you log in.

In addition to Gmail’s service, there are a number of third-party service providers that offer services for two-step authentication.

Yes, entering an additional code is somewhat of a pain, but it may end up saving you from a “hackerazzi.”

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