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Interent users beware: Security of personal data becoming more questionable

How safe are your computer passwords?

With the Internet so embedded in our everyday lives, we put more stock and trust in the cyber equivalent of our house keys, our passwords.

If your house keys go missing or stolen, security experts and common sense suggest you change your locks.

With the advent of online banking, online bill paying and Internet shopping, we put as much faith in our computer passwords as we do in our keys, but are our passwords safe in the hands of the websites that use them?

In early October, Adobe, the company that produces popular image editing software Photoshop and many other creative tools, admitted to accidentally leaking more than 38 million customer emails and passwords.

Adobe is no small, vulnerable company. It’s the second-largest computer software company in the U.S., according to Fortune magazine. While Adobe took measures to contain the leak, the real danger stems from people who use the same password and email combination on multiple sites. Adobe reset passwords on its end, but nothing stops would-be hackers from trying them on other sites.

Adobe isn’t the only company attacked recently. Microsoft, live-streaming site Twitch, note-taking web-app Evernote and even Twitter have all had minor leaks of user data within the past year.

“I had my Facebook account hacked recently,” says Kris Stoliker, an art student at NCC. “My password was ‘password’ and someone guessed it. I guess I deserved it.”

Does this mean the days of passwords are numbered? More recently many of the biggest websites have introduced two-factor authentication. In addition to your password, you need a one-time-use token or PIN to access your data. These can be sent to your phone via text message or a physical authenticator.

“Massive corporations have a lot of sensitive data,” says Daniel Fairly, an expert in computer security at Oracle Systems. “We, along with many others, are looking into adopting biometric authentication as an alternative to typed passwords.”

Another security alternative, biometric authentication such as a fingerprint or retina scanners, are being embedded in phones and tablets making everyday use of these methods a reality.

With stories about large data leaks, should you avoid using online services? Absolutely not. With a little common sense and use of smart passwords, you can avoid being affected by hacks and leaks.

As companies and users adjust to an ever-growing demand in storing sensitive data on the Internet, advances in online security hopefully will ensure your personal data remains for your eyes only.