And if Hillary Clinton had asked Aaron Ross from RossBackup.com, she never would have opted for a private server stored in her home.
“Are you kidding me? A private server has a lot of issues,” says Ross from his New York City base.“If you knew Hillary Clinton was using a private server and you wanted to get information, then there is only one thing to do, and that is get that server. It is like a big company. You know they have the information, you know where it is and you just have to get it.”
And, in Clinton’s private home server situation, you wouldn’t have to be a computer genius to get it. All you have to do is locate the server on the property, throw it in the trunk of the car and go.
“If she had used a Gmail account, it would have been a lot safer. No one knows where the information is and if you don’t know the password, it is safe.”
How to pick a password
Aaron Ross’s combination of computer tech savvy and common sense makes him a sought-after commentator on American news networks. His plan for cyber security starts with a safe, secure, secret password. Preferably at least eight digits (more is better) based on a personal “schematic” that you keep secret as well.
“I can’t believe how many people tell me they use Test 1, 2, 3 for a password,” says Ross.
“What you really need is a good schematic for your password,” he explains. “I have mine all set up in my head.”
For example, he says, “Pick your first name and switch out a zero for “O” and @ for “A” (think of your own, don’t use this one; and needless to say, this isn’t the one Ross uses either) and pick a number using a schematic. You alone will know your password and what the formula is.”
It is very unlikely hackers will be able to figure it out. They’ll go somewhere easier. Perhaps they will look for one of those Test 1, 2, 3 password people.
“Never, ever share that password no matter what, and always paste in your password so the keystrokes can’t be copied by a hacker,” advises Ross.
Ross never buys anti-virus software. To keep hackers out, he uses Windows Defender (which is free) and his trusty, super-robust, absolutely confidential password.
Many of the big data breach events that make headlines start with employees accidently opening the door to hackers. If everyone - consumers, private citizens, company staff - all stuck to the super-secret password rule, they make it a lot harder for cyber crooks to pry open the door to stacks of valuable information.
Companies warn employees about password safety all the time, but when password security breaks down, data leaks out.
Ross adds that “What happens is some guy has been working at his desk for seven hours. He gets an e-mail that says, ‘Can you please change your password?’
“He thinks, ‘Oh, it’s the monthly password change and he changes his old password for a new one. But the e-mail is actually a fake and bingo, they’ve just let a cyber criminal in the door.
“The only question now,” says Ross, “is how bad this will be? If he’s a low-level employee, they can’t get much. But if he’s a system administrator or a supervisor at the company, hackers start accessing information. They start creating fake accounts and creating havoc. They may try to access more people. At Sony, for example, there were likely multiple access points.”
Health care data breaches worse than we know
Stolen health care information may be more easily turned into cash for criminals in ways we barely understand. Chock-full of all kinds of personal information, health care companies have become favorite targets for hackers.
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“They hack into an account and see that someone has early stage cancer,” says Ross. “They then call a friend of this person and say, ‘this is the hospital, your friend can’t pay his bill and we need $5,000 right now.’ They think, this must be legitimate. How would anyone know this information otherwise? So, they start handing over the money.”
Practicing good cyber security takes a lot of common sense. And it’s a big, nasty cyber world out there. That means every knock on the door requires us to take a look through the keyhole first before sliding back the deadbolt.