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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

Software Utilities Opening Computers to Attack

Some basic software utilities could be opening up your Mac for cybersecurity attacks. Are some of your basic software utilities actually opening your computer to easy attacks that could compromise your personal information? For 13 million Mac users, the answer could be yes.

Millions of Mac users have downloaded a program called MacKeeper, which purports to clean your Mac’s hard drive of unnecessary files, help your system run faster and protect it from the few viruses that are designed to affect Macs.

It sounds too good to be true — and that’s because it is. While MacKeeper is not a malevolent piece of software, it can cause problems. Writing for iMore, contributor Peter Cohen argues that MacKeeper actually has a tendency to slow down computers and cause them to crash more frequently. But it still maintains a substantial user base, thanks to a series of persistent pop-up ads that lure people in.

If users didn’t have a reason to uninstall the software before, they do now. Krebs on Security reports that the makers of MacKeeper have discovered that a security breach has exposed the usernames, passwords and other information belonging to users.

“Some 13 million customer records [were] leaked [through] a potential vulnerability in access to our data storage system and we are grateful to the security researcher Chris Vickery who identified this issue without disclosing any technical details for public use,” the company said in a statement. “We fixed this error within hours of the discovery. Analysis of our data storage system shows only one individual gained access performed by the security researcher himself.”

The makers of MacKeeper insisted that customer billing information is not stored on their servers, meaning that credit card information should not have been exposed in the breach. However, the loss of passwords can still be a serious problem. As we have written previously, far too many Internet users repeat their passwords, increasing the chance that their accounts could be broken into.

Protect your online accounts from data breaches

Any time you use a username and a password to create an account, there is a chance that this information could become compromised. If you’re the kind of person who uses the same password for everything, this could quickly spiral into a devastating breach.

Don’t let that happen to you. Be sure to create a unique, strong password for every single account you hold.

This means a minimum of 12 characters, with a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters. This will make it difficult for any hacker to use brute force methods to break into an account. Furthermore, turning on additional security measures like two-step verification will keep thieves from running wild through your accounts.

If one of your accounts has been broken into and you have concerns about identity theft, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind, allowing you to rest assured that you’re taking important measures to protect your identity.