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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Hacking - we often think of it happening to companies or governments, but individuals can also be the targets; people like Matt Honan, a technology writer whose computer and Internet accounts were hacked. He told his story on MORNING EDITION, earlier today.

MATT HONAN: You know, I lost a year and a half of pictures of my daughter; pictures of her with her great-grandparents, who are now deceased, and just really - you know, wonderful, precious memories that I'm really hoping I'll be able to get back.

BLOCK: The hackers used security loopholes at Amazon and Apple, to obtain personal information about Honan. Both companies say they're addressing the problems. NPR's Sonari Glinton looks at some things you can do, to protect yourself.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: I'm sitting here at my desk and, like most of you, I've got a ton of stuff - a work cellphone, personal cellphone; I have a tablet; I've got a laptop computer. And if I just count NPR's logins - and things like that - I have a login for the network; I have a login for the travel website; I have a login for my annual performance review. And each of these devices, or logins, contain really vital pieces of information that if you got a hold of, I'd be in big trouble.

LANCE ULANOFF: Essentially, what's happening here is, you're leaving yourself open - your whole life open - to what I call triangulation.

GLINTON: Lance Ulanoff is editor of Mashable.com, a technology website. He says the first way to protect yourself, is to use good passwords. Thing is, most of us are simply not doing that.

ULANOFF: It's just ridiculous that people are still creating their own passwords. They all - to a person, I think they will admit, they're terrible at it. And they don't even really expend any effort on it.

GLINTON: Ulanoff says the best way to deal with the password tangle is to use a software that creates and stores passwords for you. Then you only need one, super-secure password. It's not just enough to get strong passwords. Ulanoff says you have to change your behavior.

ULANOFF: I hate to say it but the reality is, they need to share a little less. They need to put a little bit less information out there. You know, their Facebook pages, their MySpace pages, their Twitter accounts - they're constantly sharing information, details.

GLINTON: It's the details that get you into trouble - your birthday and date; where you went to grade school; posting photos of your vacation while you're on vacation. Not a good idea. IT professionals have been saying it for years but back up your data, back up your data, back up your data. Ulanoff says, think about consolidating your online presence.

ULANOFF: Oh, I'm still on Friendster. Wait a minute, no one's still on Friendster. Well, I have an account out there - you know. They say oh, I'm still on MySpace. Really? You know - when was the last time you visited? Five years ago. OK, it might be time to shut it down.

GLINTON: You know what's funny about that? I don't even know.

ULANOFF: (LAUGHTER) Yeah. I mean, that's the big problem. There's digital debris everywhere. We are leaving trails that go back years, now.

GLINTON: The final thing is to use two-part authentication - something that you know, like a password; and something that you have, like a thumbprint. Here's the thing about doing all of this: It takes time.

Whitson Gordon is senior editor at LifeHacker.com. The site gives tips on using technology to ease daily life.

WHITSON GORDON: Well, unfortunately - you know - I can tell all of my friends to use separate passwords, and use a password manager; enable two-factor authentication; but it's really not convenient.

GLINTON: Gordon says until now, most companies have been more inclined to make things easier, not necessarily safer.

GORDON: And I think that a lot of them are realizing that security comes first, convenience comes second, in this day and age; with people getting hacked, and identity theft being so rampant. And I think we're at the point where we're starting to realize how to be more secure; and now, we need to figure out how to make that more convenient for us, the average user.

GLINTON: Gordon says it's going to take a long time for the companies to figure out simple and safe solutions, so don't hold your breath. Until then, back up your data.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

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