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By Edward Chizea Nwosisi 

Undoubtedly the most important commodity on the internet would be passwords, given all that can be done via the web. This has come under immense threat and is no open to compromise which comes in various forms. The effect of having one’s password in the wrong hands can only be best imagined. Being that we are all social beings and as such must communicate, we are prone to fall victim to password theft. Our need to communicate is heightened now that we live in an age where the need for communication and information dissemination is unprecedented.

An ever increasing amount of people use as a means of communicating most of the social and messaging media such as Facebook, Yahoo!, Hotmail, Google-mail, etc. Technological innovations, through the invention of social and e-mail messaging, have aided how we communicate, with the innovative growth also grew the threat. The activities of hackers, Spoofers and Phishers have cast a dark cloud over communication via the social and messaging media! Their wiles constitute the major threat to password security and ultimately rest of mind.

I recently was a victim to the wiles of hackers and had two of my accounts compromised. This thankfully was for a brief spell, thus the impulse to write on the topic. I must quickly point out that having one’s account compromised generally, is aided by poor web security technology and lack of total care by the victim. There is some level, as it were, of concomitance by the victim. Since the evolution of smart phones and tablets, surfing the web has moved from just the computer as the only medium. Consequently, the threat to password has spread with the use of any of the aforementioned. This write-up would juxtapose the security options of Facebook, Gmail and Yahoo. This is because together, they remain the most popular social and messaging media providers and the security options they provide cover all relevant needed security steps to take. It is advised that in choosing a password, an alpha-numeric frame is preferable and it’s to be changed latest every 30 days. It also should not be written down anywhere, this cannot be over-emphasised, and of course shouldn’t be shared.

Unequivocally, I would like to say that Facebook and Gmail provide the most reliable security of all social and messaging sites. Once the security measures they provide are activated, it would be hard for anyone else (especially from another location to access your account without being stopped) and you would get notified. Subsequently, you are guided (from a PC for Facebook) on steps to take to repossess your account. Gmail goes the extra mile to either call or text on a pre-assigned number whereupon a security code would be given for log in. If a friend tries to access or possess your account they automatically are shut out. Except of course, and this is highly unlikely, if all the information regarding your account to known to him.

Yahoo! comes close to Facebook and Gmail in providing a reliable security check, only that Yahoo! tends to block the account for as long as 48 hours when it is suspected to have been compromised. Even though this is welcoming, it leaves the user hapless, where he relies on constant e-mail communication. What this allows for is that a potential mischief maker could try hacking into an account and eventually have it blocked on likelihood of security compromise. This leaves the account inaccessible for both account owner and mischief maker until claimed. The account owner, after answering some questions if answered correctly, then recovers the account.

Both messaging media offer the option of confirmation before password is changed and it is mostly via an alternate account. If this is not confirmed the sought change does not materialize. So a hacker cannot take control of your account if you have that security option activated

I would advise Yahoo! to create a location log-in option as one of its security measures just as Facebook and do one better by allowing “out of normal” location log-in activation for a specific city in the event of travel. This option would allow the account holder to activate access, beforehand, for the location he would be travelling to and there would be no question of unusual log-in. At the moment Yahoo! only shows a list of locations that have accessed an account and also prevents an oddly different location log-in to succeed in case of a compromised account. For example, an account that has been accessed mostly in Lagos, suddenly having someone in Japan trying to access or claim the account. Facebook would then have to take a cue from this step as they do not presently provide it.

As for hackers, spoofers and phishers, check your system or device regularly to detect unknown applications and delete. Make sure whatever application you install has the manufacturer’s signature and if you find an application asking for your password suddenly, ignore as this is a sign of potential compromise.

I came out of this threat because I had taken pains to follow through and activate all possible security measures on Facebook and Yahoo! (Gmail offers the same). I suggest you do the same and remember the first thing to do once you notice your account has been compromised is to immediately initiate an attempt to regain control.

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This article was first published on 20th April 2012 and updated on May 10th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

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