EBay Breach: What You Can (And Can't) Do to Protect Your Info - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

EBay Breach: What You Can (And Can't) Do to Protect Your Info

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(KCEN) - It's the year of the breach.

Once again, hackers made it into a major company's database and made off with user information. This time it's eBay.

And while the auction site claims no financial information was taken, it's still worrying central Texans.

At 148 million active users, eBay is a big marketplace.

"It kind of concerned me because my husband, you know, buys a lot of things on eBay," said Martha Williams, as she finished up some old-fashioned shopping in Waco.

She heard about the data breach Thursday.

Hackers got employee credentials and found a way into eBay's network. They made off with names, passwords, email and home addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates.

"That poses a real problem for me," Williams said.

And it's information that you don't really have a choice but to provide in a lot of cases; a delivery address for what you buy, for instance.

"Oh, and the delivery driver needs your phone number in case they can't find you," Dow Myers of Waco'sPromptt-Technology said.

He said this kind of hack is just kind of what happens now.

"These are going to become a part of life," said Myers, "and I think we've just got to be aware as consumers that look, this is always possible."

So the question for us consumers, is there a way to protect your info if a site is hacked?

The short answer: no. Once you give a site like eBay all of your information, it's up to them to keep it safe.

What you can do to protect yourself is change your password often -- about once a month.

"People, and me included, they don't like having to come up with a new password frequently," said Derek Smith, network security department chair at Texas State Technical College.

It can be a pain -- "I change it and then I can't remember what I changed it to," Williams said -- but it could mean if a site you use is breached, the hackers get an old password.

"Maybe go ahead and spend one day a month and [say], 'Okay, I'm going to go reset all my passwords. This is password day," said Myers.

And don't use the same password for everything.

Even though eBay says no financial info was taken, "a lot of people, with their PayPal ID being the same as their eBay ID, [the hackers] may start trying to hammer on the PayPal accounts."

So if you use the electronic payment site, it's probably not a bad idea to change that password, too.

"They say that computers make our life simpler," Williams said. "I'm not so sure."

For potentially millions of online shoppers, it just got a little more complicated.

All those passwords were encrypted, so it's possible the hackers might never be able to decipher them. But it's not just the eBay breach that has people on their toes.

"I couldn't believe it," said Mary Dallas. She tried to use her credit card online Wednesday night.

The site she was on rejected it.

"They said, 'Oh, yeah, there's been a breach of security,'" she said. The card company told her she could use it at brick-and-mortar stores, just not online.

There's no indication it's at all connected to the eBay hack, but Mary and her husband, Rod, see it as a sign of the times. "It's very concerning," Rod said.

"But we know it's going to happen," added Mary.

"Hackers are getting smarter," Smith said, which means this kind of thing is going to keep happening, which will mean more password changes.

When picking a new password, there are a few easy tips to keep in mind.

"Don't use common words," Smith said. "One of the more common words for a password is the word 'password.' Don't use common words, don't use your children's name."

If you're dead set, for whatever reason, on using 'password' as your password (which, again, is a bad idea), do yourself a favor and change it up. Substitute special characters for letters, numbers for letters, and throw some capital letters in there. So 'password' becomes 'p@55worD.'

It's a good idea to use those kinds of substitutes even if you don't use common words. And if you use a number sequence that's specific to you, say your birth year, just hold shift when you're entering it. So '1974' becomes '!(&$.'

And a longer password is usually a better one.

"Anything that you can do that makes it actually more convoluted for you also is going to make it more convoluted for the hackers," Myers said.

Keep in mind, none of these tips are going to stop the hacks. "There's always going to be people out there trying to beat the system," Mary Dallas said. "There's some very smart crooks out there," added Rod.

But it'll make it so the information they get is largely useless.
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