Twitter hacks highlight the importance of strong passwords

We’re reminded of why good passwords are needed on a fairly regular basis, and after a spate of attacks on Twitter accounts, you may want to check your social networking accounts for security, too.

It might seem a little paranoid to suggest this, but often there’s someone out to get you, and on the internet that fact is ever more likely. In fact, it’s less that someone is out to get you online, but more that they’re keen to steal your details, leading to identity theft.

Sometimes identity theft is about grabbing banking details and charging purchases to you, and other times it’s just about making a mess of your life and linking you to things you may not agree with, which seems to be the case with a series of compromised social media accounts that has been hitting Twitter.

According to news from Symantec, makers of Norton Internet Security and Norton 360, that sort of thing has been happening on Twitter, where over 2500 accounts on the social service have been broken into, with the hacks changing the profile photos, biography, name, and posts on the account to link to adult dating websites.

While most of these accounts were from random people, a few even belonged to people notable on Twitter, evident thanks to the Blue Tick next to their Twitter account name, with members of an electronic band, a comedian, and a few journalists making the cut on who was hacked.

The result of these attacks may appear a bit of a nuisance, but Symantec expects that the person responsible for the hacks would have earned roughly $4 for each person who signed up to the adult dating site through these links.

More interestingly, however, Symantec noticed a trend with the hacked accounts based on time. Specifically, most accounts were at least four years old, with the oldest one closer to nine years old.

With that in mind, it’s highly likely that the passwords used to protect those accounts were very out of date, offering the hacker an easier way in than say breaking into an older account.

As such, if you have an old Twitter account — or even an old account anywhere — you may want to consider changing the password immediately, creating a more unique password with unusual characters in the place of familiar letters, such as a “!” for an “i” or a “3” for an “E”.

Symantec has also suggested password managers as an option, but to also rely on login verification for Twitter, with two-factor authentication the next step for any other service you may be concerned about.

This extra form of security adds what is basically an extra layer, with your phone acting as the secondary security layer, making everything a little tighter provided you don’t lose your phone or phone number.