The accounts of more than 6.5 million LinkedIn users were compromised this week after Russian hackers tapped into the site. The hackers reportedly posted the encrypted passwords of users to ask for help in decoding them.
LinkedIn, a site driven by making connections in the professional world, hasn't formally confirmed the legitimacy of the hack, but the company issued a tweet that said, "Our team continues to investigate, but at this time, we're still unable to confirm that any security breach has occurred. Stay tuned here."
LinkedIn offers free profiles with an option to upgrade to a paid
profile in return for more in-depth access to other users' profiles.
Even if you don't think you have much personal information or credit
card details on your account, without taking the proper steps to protect
yourself, the security breach could open you up to some risks you might
not realize, cyber expert and associate publisher for Tweeting & Business Magazine Eric Yaverbaum said.
The hack only affects about ten percent of the site's users, but Yaverbaum recommended all 150 million LinkedIn users change their passwords immediately.
Because 85 percent of people have one password they use for several accounts, a hack of LinkedIn could put your identity in jeopardy in other areas of the Internet.
"Every single solitary password should be different because it's so easy to find out everywhere you are. You should be using a password with a capitol letter and a lower case letter and numbers. Then you are defending the fort," Yaverbaum said. "But if you have a redundant password, there is a lot of room for identity theft."
Yaverbaum also warned against opening any emails from LinkedIn, especially messages that direct you to the site to change your password. Those could be mock emails that lead you to a fake site that steals your information once you enter it.
Hackers could also use access to your profile to send out messages that could come across as inappropriate to business contacts, which is the primary use of LinkedIn.
"It can be damaging to a reputation if people don't recognize what it is," Yaverbaum said of rogue messages sent by hackers.
While hackers gaining access to LinkedIn is a sobering reality of the risks of putting information online, Yaverbaum said it shouldn't scare you out of using the site. It should, however, make you more vigilant about protecting your accounts and refreshing passwords.
"Everyone should pause and realize that is the world that you play in," he said. "Anytime something like this is hacked, it's a moment for people to reflect about the info they give out on the internet, period."