Internet expert: Users "biggest threat" to own online safety

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JEFFERSON CITY - About five million Gmail passwords may have been leaked, and one Jefferson City IT specialist warns Internet users are often their own worst enemy.

"People should already be changing their passwords every 30-60 days," Brian Bray said. "And if something like this comes out, they should change their passwords immediately, and they may want to cancel their account and get a new one."

Bray leads an online safety class at the Missouri River Regional Library and said password safety is a common topic. Passwords should be at least eight characters long, include upper and lower case letters and either a number or symbol or both.

"The number one password in America is 'password,'" Bray said, "so it's not too hard to get into."

He said Googling yourself can be helpful to create secure passwords. 

"See what's out there on the net, and then when you're setting up passwords or user names, try not to use the information you found on Google," Bray said.

Google said most of the leaked passwords and user names are old and outdated. In a blog post, the company said less than 2 percent of the hacked passwords might have worked, but Bray said that's still a huge amount.

"That's pretty big," Bray said. "I would think they'd want it to be less than 1 percent."

Bray's debit card was hacked last summer by a virus he thinks recorded his keyboard typing. He had virus software and took many precautions, but said everyone must be more diligent when it comes to online safety.

"We all get lazy. We don't want to change our passwords. We want to do what's easy," Bray said. "Our biggest threat is ourselves."