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E-Mail Dangers

Checking our e-mail the first thing in the morning for many of us is as common as a morning cup of coffee. In fact, although most people will only have, at most, a couple of cups of coffee throughout the day, most of us check our e-mail constantly. It is a way of life.

Unfortunately, too many of us are careless when it comes to protecting our security when using e-mail, thereby making us vulnerable to identity theft. Sometimes the problem is the use of passwords that are too easy to guess.

Inadequate passwords present a danger not just on your e-mail account, but on any account that you use that requires a password. Following a hacking incident involving the company RockYou.com, which makes software for use on social networking sites, a list of 32 million passwords became public and confirmed what many of us already thought was the case—that too many of us use passwords that are far too easy for an identity thief to guess. The most popular password is the far from difficult to guess “123456” followed closely by the almost as difficult to guess “12345.” Other common and much too easy to guess passwords include “password,” “letmein,” “trustno1,” “iloveyou,” and the seemingly difficult password “qwerty,” which might appear to be a complex password until you look at the top row of letters on your computer keyboard.

Identity thieves and hackers can use computer programs to guess at huge numbers of passwords, and yours might just be too easy to guess.

Another source of problems with e-mail security is a security question that is too easy for an identity thief to guess. Security questions are helpful in protecting your e-mail from being hacked by an identity thief, but if the question is too easy to guess, you might have unwittingly handed the key to your e-mail account to an identity thief. Unfortunately, too many people put too much information about themselves online through social media, such as Facebook. This makes it easy for enterprising identity thieves to get access to your e-mail account by logging on to the account, and then indicating that they have forgotten the password or want to change the password. In both instances, a security question is used by the e-mail provider to confirm that the person is the legitimate user of the account. David Kernell was convicted of stealing access to former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s e-mail merely by answering her security question, which was where did she meet her husband. A quick trip to Wikipedia provided the answer to the question, which was Wasilla High School, and it was a simple matter from there for Kernell to change her password and take over her account.

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