You’re already stressed-out enough, you miss your friends, you’ve started watching even bad movies now, and you’re out of hand sanitizer.
But now you get an email informing you that some criminal not only has the password to your computer but that he’s going to share all those naughty videos on your hard drive …. unless you send him the equivalent of $2,000 in bitcoin.
Two friends received such emails in the last five days and both asked how they should respond — so here are my suggestions.
The bad news is that you’ve been doing a poor job of creating and protecting your passwords. The good news is that the email is just a scam and almost certainly harmless. By the law of large numbers, one of the thousands of people this criminal is threatening might actually have such videos and would pay up.
The criminal most likely bought a package of thousands of emails and passwords on the Dark Web and it just so happened you are/were a subscriber to one of the services that suffered a data breach at some point.
Fake or not, the email is a wake-up call to do a better job of protecting your personal data. Besides, you need a project and you’ve probably got the time.
- Check all your email addresses to see where the hacker might have obtained your logins.
- Start using a password manager to store your passwords. There are many opinions on this but it’s certain that something is better than the clearly inadequate scheme you have been using.For mere mortals LastPass is free and offers tools to check for weak and duplicated passwords and other vulnerabilities. LastPass also offers a version of their software for any device (Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, etc.).
Besides LasPass, Bitwarden, Avira Password Manager, 1Password, and Dashlane are all reliable and reputable alternatives.
- Change the password on your computer.
- Consider using a more secure email service than your old Comcast, AOL, or Yahoo account. Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer reasonably secure alternatives.
And because you may have expected this to be a political post, well, here’s one (but it’s not mine and it’s definitely not for children’s ears):