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Yahoo breach: have you been taking these 5 precautions?

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It may be time to reconsider any cybersecurity steps you take and those you may ignore.

On September 22nd, Yahoo revealed it had suffered what some called the largest data breach ever. At the time of this writing, personal information for more than 500 million user accounts was said to have been exposed at the longstanding web-based company. Though this was a massive compromise of information, it's just the latest in a string of high-profile consumer data breaches.

As these kinds of breaches have almost become commonplace, you may have already put your own cybersecurity precautions in place. But are there ones you're missing, you've forgotten or may not have thought were terribly important?

Here are 5 cybersecurity precautions you should be taking, or putting into place now, to protect against the kinds of breaches experienced by Yahoo.

1. Come up with and regularly change strong, varied passwords. They should be:

  • A mix of letters, numbers and characters
  • Long enough
  • Not based on personal information or unique aspects of your life
  • Unique to each account you have online

2. Be very careful putting sensitive/private/inappropriate information in electronic form. Anything you put in a sent email, logged-in or logged-out webpage, in a message, or anywhere else on the web has the potential to be seen and used by anyone else.

3. Keep a watchful eye on your accounts. You should be doing regular cybersecurity checkups with any accounts you have login information for. That's especially critical for financial accounts or others you use online payment methods for.

4. Don't assume any company is immune from data vulnerabilities. Big or small, online-based or off, well-liked or hated, any company can suffer a data breach. So never let your guard down.

5. Look at the big picture. After a breach like Yahoo's, everyone should be taking a step back to look at the entire cybersphere they inhabit: what can people find out about you online? Where do you have accounts? Are you revealing too much information about yourself? Remember that thieves can play a slow game, piecing together personal information from a variety of sources until they have enough information to attempt a crime.

Bottom line: the Yahoo breach wasn't the first, and it may not be the last. While you can't predict a future breach's when, where, how, why or who, you can take smart, simple steps to protect yourself.

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