LOS ANGELES — Stop me if you've heard this one before: It's time to change your passwords.
In case you thought those pleas were directed at another member of the information-based economy, let Uber (and Equifax and Yahoo) disabuse you of that error. The reality is, if you're reading this, you've surely been hacked, you are being hacked, or you will be hacked.
This latest wake-up call came from ride-hailing service Uber, which announced this week that a year ago, thieves had stolen information belonging to nearly 60 million Uber customers and drivers. Surprised? Uber's new CEO said he was, too (though he did know about it two months before you did).
That year-long information vacuum was courtesy of two since-fired Uber execs who had tried to keep the hack on the quiet, apparently by paying the hackers $100,000, says Bloomberg.
So imagine: what other hacks have spirited your information off into the ether — that you might find out about one, two, three years down the line?
The chances of these hacks letting up are slim. That's because one end goal is pretty compelling: money. The summer's HBO hack remerged in the news this week as well, when U.S. officials announced plans to charge an Iranian ex-military hacker who stole episodes of unaired episodes of several shows, including “Game of Thrones,” and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." His plan was to extort $6 million from HBO. Emails suggested HBO officials considered paying the hackers some money.
And of course some borrowers are still struggling with problems associated with the massive hack of credit agency Equifax.
(Check out Elizabeth Weise's must-read piece on the biggest hacks of all time.)
If this has convinced you to freshen up those passwords, remember to get creative. The most common passwords are 123456, abcdef, password, your name, your kids' names, your address or something else so easy your neighbor could figure it all out in seconds.
A password of at least 12 letters is recommended by experts—the longer the better, with a combination of upper and lower letters, numbers and symbols. Others like long phrases that can be adapted and recalled—like mywifesezIamthealltimeloserbutijustdontcare.
Check out: 7 tips for crafting the perfect password
For those with lots of passwords (I have nearly 100) please consider a password manager, like Dashlane, 1Password or LastPass. They keep all your passwords in one place, create hard-to-hack new ones for you, and are a godsend for anyone who just can't remember all of them. Many of the password managers start at free, then offer a subscription for multiple device access.
You can also use two-factor authentication, where you sign in twice to websites, meaning it would be that much harder for the hacker to get into your Uber credentials.
Remember, it only takes a few minutes to update. On this holiday weekend, you'll feel thankful you took the time.
Other big tech news this week:
Net Neutrality: Those Obama administration rules that looked to prevent Internet providers from throttling or blocking content are headed for the graveyard.
The FCC's new chairman said it will vote on repealing the rules next month, after suggesting all year that this day would come. His view: an over-reach of government power. Critics' take: your Internet prices will go up, with premium packages for heavy users.
Media giant Comcast insists that won't happen, at least not with its company, which also owns NBC/Universal. "We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content," the company said. "We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear and transparent for consumers."
AT&T/Time Warner. In more regulatory actions, the Justice Department said it would sue to prevent the proposed merger of wireless carrier AT&T and media giant Time Warner. The merged companies, which include satellite broadcaster DirecTV, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio and the Turner Broadcasting networks (including CNN and TBS), would cause prices for consumers to rise, the government said. AT&T said it would fight the suit.
Check out these deals for iPhones and Galaxy's. If you're reading this on Saturday, you still have time to run to Walmart, Target or Best Buy to take advantage of an unusual discount offer for the rarely discounted iPhone. Walmart is offering $300 gift cards (for use with other merchandise) for iPhone models from the 6S up to the $999 X, while Target and Best Buy have $250 and $200 gift cards for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Best Buy has a $300 card for recent editions of the Samsung Galaxy phones. Come-on alert: investor Gene Munster checked out the Walmart offer, and found it wanting. He says the Target offer is more to the point.
Finally, Eli Blumenthal checked out the Chinese OnePlus, which he says is nearly as good as an iPhone X, but at half the price.
Your week in audio
Tech Turkeys of 2017. The audio version of my Top Ten list.
Alexa fans need the AnyPod skill. If you love podcasts (and we hope you do) and own the Amazon Echo speaker, you'll want this skill, which lets you ask for specific episodes of a show, fast forward, rewind and subscribe and unsubscribe.
Talking Tech meets I Hate My Boss. For our Thanksgiving edition, the hosts of Talking Tech and I Hate My Boss (Liz Dolan) join forces to introduce their respective listeners to their shows.
iPhone Shopper's Guide: Everything you need to know about which of the eight different iPhone models might be right for you.
Subscribe to the #TalkingTech newsletter, usat.ly/2qaIVVQ, the #TalkingTech podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Tunein and wherever else you like to hear great online audio and follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham.
How to find and listen to podcasts? Easy stuff. Just watch this video below for more: