"I use usually I use the same password [for multiple websites] in case I forget," says Jing Chen, a student at University of Illinois ho is one of millions of people using the web to shop and bank. But, lax security methods, like those employed by Chen, can leave security holes that a hacker can exploit and mine sensitive personal data.
Even the tech savvy students at UIS don't worry about stolen information.
"I will rotate [my passwords] occasionally,” senior Mathew Gaskins says. “And certainly will keep close track of what major threats there are that go around. So if [I hear that] there's something major going around, I will change them."
Hacking experts say cyber crime is becoming more common. The Attorney General is warning Illinois companies of a rise in cyber security breaches.
"Online providers are facing unprecedented levels of attack," UIS computer science professor, Lucas Vespa, says.
A simple five or six character password can be decrypted in almost an instant by seasoned hackers. Longer, multi-character and more complex passwords can take days, or even be impossible, to decrypt. Experts say a common password for convenience is the worst protection from data thieves.
"[Users] absolutely have to use a different password for every single service you use," Vespa maintains.
Still, many put security aside, believing extensive countermeasures simply aren't worth the time.
"They [the data thieves] will not steal our information because we're students,” Chen says laughing. “We're not very rich."
That distant sound you hear now are hackers, the world over, cackling with glee.
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