I’m a tech expert still in shock at these ways hackers steal your password

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You’ve probably heard it a million times, right? Keep your passwords strong, unique and under wraps. Don’t go clicking on shady links, and change your passwords like you change your socks. Oh, and let’s not forget about tucking them away in a cozy, encrypted password manager. The advice list is never-ending.

But here’s a kicker. What if you tick all those boxes and your password still ends up in the wrong hands? I know it sounds like we’re going overboard, but it’s a legitimate worry. How can you keep yourself safe from all the password-stealing scams out there and the damage that can potentially come with that?

The truth is, you can never keep yourself 100% safe from anything. But you can try your best. It starts by taking a step back and understanding the ways that your password, emails and usernames could be potentially compromised.

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Illustration of locking up your devices (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The many ways hackers try to steal your password

Theoretically, there are many ways that hackers can go about stealing your password and other login information, especially when it comes to tricking you into giving it to them. But, all the methods go back to the basics. Here are some of the methods hackers employ to steal passwords from innocent people like you and me.

Password spraying: This isn’t always successful, but attackers may attempt to log in to your accounts by trying random common passwords and seeing if anything hits.

Credential stuffing: Hackers test databases or lists of stolen credentials against multiple accounts to see if there’s a match. If you use the same password across different sites, these hackers have a good chance of finding a match.

Phishing: Phishing attempts are one of the most common ways that hackers can get your password. It’s a social engineering tactic where they attempt to trick you into providing your login credentials. Phishing often takes place through emails or messages, perhaps telling you that you missed a payment or your credit card will be charged soon. In a panic, you contact them to resolve the issue, sometimes not realizing you gave away your information to a scammer until it’s too late.

THE VERY WORST AND WEAKEST PASSWORDS OF 2023

Extortion: Extortion is more aggressive when hackers demand passwords through threats or blackmail.

Keyloggers: Another way is to get you to download malware onto your device, which is capable of capturing everything you type, including your passwords.

Brute force attacks: This is a trial-and-error method of stealing passwords by employing an algorithm that attempts to crack passwords by trying every possible combination.

Local discovery: This is when hackers are physically able to find your passwords that are written down or stored insecurely. Perhaps they break into your home and steal a list of passwords on a notepad in your office desk drawer. Or, they find a way to use malware to hack into your password storage software. This is scary as those are meant to be trusted, but it can happen.

Once hackers get the information they need, they can access your various accounts – including bank accounts – and potentially wreak havoc on your finances and other aspects of your life.

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Woman talking about password situation (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: THE VERY WORST AND WEAKEST PASSWORDS

How to keep your passwords safe

In addition to the basics we mentioned earlier – like changing your passwords often – there are other strategies you can use to help protect yourself.

Use strong, unique passwords: This is one you probably know, but your password should be long (more than 12 characters) and contain a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (and whatever you’re allowed to use on the platform it is). Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords.

Reset your password often: Sometimes, forgetting your password isn’t all that bad. Okay, kidding. But the reason I mention this is because the more often you reset or change your password, the harder it is for hackers to guess it.

Enable two-factor authentication: Most banks and other platforms that hold your sensitive data already have 2FA incorporated into their system, but sometimes, you do need to set it up yourself. This adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by sending a code to your device or email address. It’s easy once you get it going and can keep your account extra secure.

Check your bank accounts often: One of the most common reasons that a hacker tries to steal your password is to have access to your bank account. Check your activities and statements often to make sure no one is using your account or card to buy anything, and let your bank know of any suspicious or fraudulent activities.

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Don’t download suspicious apps: This goes without saying, but if you’re downloading an app from a third-party app store or someone sends you an invitation to download an app, it is best not to do it.

Don’t use public devices or sensitive information: If you must use a public or someone else’s device (for instance, a computer at the library), create a guest user account, use private browsing and sign out of your account before leaving the device and clearing the history.

Be careful on public Wi-Fi: In addition to being careful with which devices you use, you also need to be cautious connecting to public Wi-Fi. Hackers lurk in these places, waiting for people to connect to these often unsecured networks, allowing them to creep in and steal your information.

Do regular software updates on your devices: Clever hackers can find ways to install malware on your device. But by doing software updates regularly, you stay one step ahead of their tricks. These updates patch security vulnerabilities, strengthen defenses and ensure your digital fortress remains resilient against their cunning tactics.

Have good antivirus software: The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed and actively running on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

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Username and Password on device (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW TO ENSURE YOUR PASSWORDS DON’T DIE WITH YOU

What if your password gets stolen anyway?

If you try all of these methods and find out your password has still been stolen, don’t fret. Keep an eye on your accounts, report any identity theft or fraud to the FTC, and reset all your passwords with new, stronger passwords as quickly as possible.

MORE: DITCH YOUR PASSWORD AND SWITCH TO A PASSKEY FOR YOUR AMAZON ACCOUNT

Kurt’s key takeaways

Remember, no security measure is 100% foolproof, but these steps can significantly reduce your risk of being hacked. Stay safe. Any hacker who is determined to steal your password will try nearly every attempt they can think of to get it. But by following the tips above, you can keep yourself that much safer until the hacker moves onto a target who is not as safe.

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Have you ever been the victim of a password-related security breach? If so, how did you handle the situation? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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