Safe Community Project


Change Your Passwords

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Change your passwords! For some, that is about as reasonable as asking, “please stop smoking.” 

True, smoking can kill you, but losing all of your online “stuff,” or even worse, being hijacked and blackmailed might make you wish you had a disease (as a more agreeable option). Neither are fun. One is easier to fix. 

People have been talking about the use of passwords for a long time – more than 20 years. Buy the fact is, today’s world has become a far more complex and “dangerous” place. We now depend on our digital devices to get us through the day – and night. With each passing month, cybercrime, and in particular cyber blackmail becomes even more concerning. 

An infographic detailing how the number and variety of characters used in a password affects how easy or how difficult it is for hackers to brute force a password based on 2024 data - the more characters and the more variety of characters, the harder it becomes for hackers to steal a password.

If we were discussing cancer, the simple single comment would be: it will likely kill you.

Cybercrime and the use of passwords is a bit more challenging to explain, but the simple single comment might be: Don’t do it and risk losing everything in your digital life, plus money.

Here are some of the primary reasons why it poses a significant threat:

  1. Anonymity and Reach: Perpetrators can operate anonymously, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace and prosecute them. The global reach of the internet allows offenders to target victims from anywhere in the world, crossing jurisdictions and complicating legal responses.
  2. Ease of Distribution: Digital content, especially compromising or sensitive information, can be distributed quickly and widely with little effort. This makes threats to release such information particularly coercive.
  3. Psychological Impact: Victims of web blackmail can experience severe psychological distress. The fear of exposure, especially if it involves personal or sensitive information, can lead to anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, even suicidal thoughts.
  4. Financial Loss: Victims may be coerced into paying large sums of money to prevent the release of compromising information. Even if they comply, blackmailers might demand more money, trapping victims in a cycle of extortion.
  5. Reputational Damage: The release of sensitive information can lead to significant reputational damage for individuals or businesses. This can affect personal relationships, professional careers, and overall social standing.
  6. Permanent Damage: Once information is released on the internet, it is almost impossible to completely remove. This can have long-lasting effects on a victim’s personal and professional life.
  7. Lack of Preparedness: Many individuals and organizations are not prepared to deal with cyber threats, including blackmail. This lack of preparedness can exacerbate the effects of an attack.

Sounds bad, right? The protection against these threats is relatively easy, and most importantly FREE. It comes down to three key things:

  1. Change your passwords to be at least 8 characters, with a lowercase letter, an uppercase letter, at least one number, and at least one special character
  2. Use a password manager software application, and create a schedule to change your passwords at least twice a year. I change mine once every four months, but even I forget about a few, which is why I’m adding a password manager to my toolbox
  3. See Item Number One

Web blackmail is not only a personal crisis for the victims but also a broader societal concern. Addressing it requires coordinated efforts including education, legal frameworks, and technical measures to protect potential victims and pursue perpetrators. Protecting yourself is easy, and should start today. Get to it! 

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