The incidences of password cracking have become an epidemic in the last few years. With the increased power of computer processing, and the ability to readily obtain password deciphering software programs on the Internet, cyber-attacks are at an all-time high.
The reason that many hackers choose their occupation is to show that they have the capacity to crack security. Some hackers do this simply as a way to have fun or show off, and some do it as a business to help secure companies that hire them. However, a percentage are after financial profit including credit card information, or to gain access into a personal or commercial financial bank account. The world is also starting to see a great deal of state-sponsored attacks, aimed at lifting intellectual property and trade secrets.
How to Check
There are specific signs that would indicate if the person’s password has been cracked. While some are obvious, others signs are more subtle.
The top 10 signs you may have already been compromised:
- Recognizing direct messages or emails not sent by you
- Changes or missing data in the contact files
- The addition of a name or link in the signature file of an email account
- The computer is prompting you for permission to download unknown software
- Unusual or unexpected changes in color schemes, along with icons that are in different locations
- Searching the task manager and finding odd programs operating in the background
- Noticing unfamiliar or unexpected pop-ups on the computer screen
- Notifications from the computer antivirus software (Norton, McAfee, etc.) indicating there are worms, Trojans or malicious software attached to the computer operating system
- Installed anti-malware software is suddenly disabled or missing
- When friends, business associates and others have information that could only be known through compromised data stored on the computer or online cloud
Any indicator should require an immediate change of all passwords from a safe machine to minimize the potential of allowing unauthorized access into a restricted account. Be aware, sometimes home computers of employees are targeted when the real target is the company infrastructure.
It is important to memorize every password, or use a system that is built to securely manage each one. It is imperative to never write them down, post them on a computer monitor or store them in a text file in a computer folder. Also, never plug in USB thumb drives found on the ground or left behind in common areas. As innocent as it might seem, malware-ridden thumb drives are a perfect way for a malicious user to sneak past the security guard and the firewall, without having to re-enact a Mission: Impossible scene.