LinkedIn acknowledged yesterday that they experienced a major security breach of their password database. A Russian hacker posted a file of 6.5 million LinkedIn user passwords in an online forum. If you have a LinkedIn account you should change your password immediately. If you use the same LinkedIn password on other sites you should changes those as well because hackers have been known to grab usernames and passwords from one site and use them to access other sites.
A major security breach like this was inevitable given the allure of social networking sites combined with the relatively weak security controls in place. Web sites that rely solely on username/password as the security control are quite not only susceptible to major security breaches like this, but also to the more mundane (and common) phishing scams where users are tricked into divulging their credentials. This should be a wake-up call to adopt more stringent security requirements, not only on social networking sites, but more critical sites like online banking and stock trading sites as well.
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