Computer security at home and at work is an on-going battle in cyberspace.

Illegal hacking is an expensive endeavor nowadays, according to Robert Olson with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of Computer Security.

“I would say I’d be a little less concerned about hacking, than I would be concerned about scams. ‘Technology assisted con artistry’ if you will,” says Olson.

And hackers aren’t always bad. Olsen says that’s a title for people working for the good guys as well. When talking about online skullduggery, he prefers a simpler term: “I would say ‘criminals’ rather than hackers,” he says.

And those criminals out there are using hacking methods to prey upon every day web users. But common folks might not be the end goal. 

“What the criminals are trying to do is to is obtain information, so they can get into (larger) systems,” says Olson.

A thought his students echoed. “Pretty much what you’re going to be looking at, especially from a more personal standpoint, it’s going to be less targeted attacks and more bulk attacks,” says Will Eatherly, Senior, RIT Computer Security Department.

“One common way is through phishing, where they send you an email and try to get you to click on something and get your username and password.”

Olson managed to find News 8’s in-house work email account and set up a good login page… and a bad login page, and we had to pick the phony one and the real one.

The green lock with an “https” on the address bar, means it’s a secure connection. The lock with the red slash…is a no-go.

And a the major security talking point on this was… you guessed it:
“Passwords! Just the fact that you should have more secure passwords,” says Nishi Prasad, Graduate Student, RIT Computer Security Department.

And making a strong password might be easier than you think. A long password like, “HarleyDavidsonvanillaicecream” is more effective than a shorter one with convoluted bells and whistles.

“Just the fact that having a longer password will make it harder to like, get the actual password out,” says Prasad.

Olson says contrary to popular belief, write your passwords down. If someone breaks into your home they’re not going to go looking for that piece of paper. Also, don’t have one password for multiple sites. 

“Ideally, what we want to see on the defensive side is that you have a different password for everything,” says Olson.