Change Your LinkedIn Password Now

Do you have a LinkedIn account? If so, you need to go change the password right now. Hackers have apparently breached the social network and have exposed an estimated 6.5 million account passwords.

Look at the bright side. You have probably been using the same password on LinkedIn for far too long, and you’re most likely using the same password on multiple websites and social networking services. This is a perfect opportunity for some password housekeeping.

Standard password practice suggests that you should change your passwords periodically. The timeframe may vary depending on the site or service, but for any account that has access to sensitive personal information or financial account data you should be changing the password at least every 90 days. That way you’ll hopefully stay a step ahead of any password breaches such as this one.

It is also common security guidance to not use the same password on different accounts. If hackers now have your LinkedIn password, that shouldn’t mean they instantly have access to your Facebook account, email, Twitter, bank account, and other sites. The more sensitive or valuable a site is--like login information to your investment or retirement accounts—the more important it is to use a unique password.

Apparently Mitt Romney--former governor of Massachusetts and current Republican candidate for president of the United States-didn’t get that memo. A story from Gawker.com reports that Romney’s Hotmail account was hacked, and that the attackers were then able to access his Dropbox cloud storage account using the same cracked password.

Don’t let that happen to you. Go change your LinkedIn account password right now. Make sure you choose a password that is not the name of your daughter or your favorite sports team. In fact, it’s preferable to use something that isn’t a real word at all. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. For example, instead of using “palmtree” as a password mix it up by making it “p@Lmtr33”.

Now that you’ve dodged the LinkedIn password breach bullet, you need to think about all of the other accounts you have that use that same password and go change those as well. This time, though, don’t make them all “p@Lmtr33”. Come up with different passwords to use at each site or service so that a breach at one doesn’t become a breach for all.

There is no perfect security, so you should never rely completely on the sites or services you associate with to protect your password forever. Breaches will happen. You can give yourself additional security, though, by choosing strong passwords, not using the same password on multiple sites, and periodically changing your password.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of PCWorld. ]

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