Ashley Madison hacked: How to keep your personal information safe on the internet

The importance of keeping yourself private online has never been more important

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The Independent Tech

In light of the Ashley Madison hack, in which the personal details of 32 million people who had signed up to the infamous cheating website were released to the public, the importance of keeping your data safe online has never been more important.

Even for seemingly secure sites like Ashley Madison, hackers can still find a way in - so taking care of your personal information is something to think about on every site.

Use different passwords across sites

User's passwords were released in the Ashley Madison leak, but they were encrypted. However, despite the bcrypt algorithm being a very secure way to store passwords, it's still possible for hackers to 'crack' the code.

This means that people could potentially then go into the accounts if they are still active, and look at private messages between users.

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Ashley Madison's International Affairs Director Christoph Kraemer speaks during a press conference in Seoul, after South Korea legalised adultery in February (AFP/.Getty)

And if the users used the same password across lots of different websites, as many people do, getting their Ashley Madison password could also let them in to their email account, online banking and social media profiles.

Using longer, memorable passwords containing symbols, capital letters and numbers, and using a different one for each site you visit is a good idea.

Using a site like Zoho Vault to securely store complex passwords is the best way to make sure that if one account is compromised, the others won't be.

Use dummy email addresses

A lot of websites require an email address if you want to use their services, and some are less reputable than others.

If your curiousity gets the better of you, then it's possible to use websites like Mailinator or Easy Trash Mail to quickly create a trash inbox.

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Mailinator allows you to send email's you don't want to a dummy address - but all inboxes are public, so be careful what emails get sent there

Many of these sites allow you to create an inbox just for a few minutes - allowing you to enter an email in a website, quickly verify yourself, and have the whole account self-destruct so you haven't given your real address away.

This works well to keep away spam, and protects your real details if you're on a less secure website.

Take advantage of private browsing

Internet history stored in your browser can be userful when it comes to auto-filling forms or remembering passwords, but it's also a bit of a security risk.

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Google's incognito browsing deletes temporary data after you close the window

The battle between convenience and security is constant, but by using private browsing in certain situations, you can have all your cookies, temporary files and browing history deleted when you close the window.

It's not very practical to browse in private constantly, but in certain situations (such as visiting Ashley Madison) it can give you peace of mind.

Use two-step authentication

Some sites, such as Dropbox, Gmail and Microsoft, can use two-step authentication if you want them to.

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Two-step authentication makes it much harder for hackers or thieves to get into your account - unless they have your phone

Every time you log in, you'll also get a unique code texted to your phone which you also need to enter. Unless a potential hacker has your email address, password and phone, they won't be able to get in without this unique code.

Again, this can be a bit inconvenient at times, but it works very well for certain services where you need extra security.

Lie when setting up security questions

The password security question is getting less popular these days as people realise that it's not actually that secure.

However, it still exists on some sites (including certain internet banking services), and can be fairly easy to crack.

For example, the common security question 'In what city were you born?' can easily be found out online, particularly through social media. The same goes for pet names, mothers' maiden names and fathers' middle names.

However, simply by telling a lie in the security question field, or by treating it as a second password, you can make your accounts much safer.

Don't share too much on social media, or make profiles private

If you post about every aspect of your life on public social media, you can easily give enough away to open yourself up to hackers - particularly when it comes to guessing passwords or security question answers.

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Giving away personal information online can give hackers enough information to get into your accounts

If you do like to share, it can be smart to switch your public social media accounts to private, just in case.

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