#CyberFLASH: Canada may have conspired to hack mobile phones, but you can protect yourself

ENA103-49_2015_092819_high-2It’s the modern nightmare: You try to log on to email one morning and find your password doesn’t work. It quickly becomes clear the account has been deleted.

Meanwhile, your Twitter account begins spewing career-suicide vitriol, your bank account is being drained, and your computer is being remotely wiped, so say goodbye to the first five chapters of that Great Canadian Road novel you were working on. You’ve been hacked.

And if you’re not being robbed blind, you still may have someone rooting through your online life.

Last week, we learned that Canada is among several countries that tried to hack into mobile phones with the idea of making the world a safer place (though what that means is open to interpretation).

With that in mind, here are five tips for keeping hackers (of all stripes) at bay:

Be smart about passwords

Having Google at our fingertips has trained us out of the habit of remembering anything, but that doesn’t excuse lazy password craft. It may be easier to remember your dog’s name than random words, but hackers can figure out your dog’s name pretty easily. And if you’re re-using your mainstay password on multiple platforms, you’re really asking for it, says Cyber Security Risk Coach Scott Wright.

“Usually if an attacker learns your user ID on Facebook, they’ll try it on banking sites or even on your work VPN connection and see if that will work. Sometimes it does,” he says.

One option is a password manager, which forces you to remember only one password. But make sure it’s a good one!

Don’t over-share on social media

Yes, I know this goes against instinct, but the truth is that social media is manna for hackers. It’s information that can help them figure out your password preferences, and the security information needed to reset passwords (mother’s maiden name and city of birth are not hard to crack, friends). And beyond just picking your online locks, it can allow an ambitious hacker to impersonate line, and gain access to friends’ lives as well.

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