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If Mark Zuckerberg can be a hacking victim, so can you

Jim Wilson/New York Times

A collective that calls itself OurMine has boasted that it had broken into a handful of Mark Zuckerberg’s social media accounts.

By Katie Rogers New York Times 

NEW YORK — There are several lessons to be learned from a data breach in which hackers gained access to Mark Zuckerberg’s social media accounts, but chief among them is probably this: Quit using the same password for multiple websites.

It may be annoying and time-consuming, but following this simple rule can help you avoid the account takeover that befell Zuckerberg, the billionaire owner of Facebook and Instagram.

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A collective that calls itself OurMine boasted that it had broken into a handful of his social media accounts, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Screengrabs posted by Engadget showed the hackers notifying Zuckerberg of the breach using his own Twitter account. Bold move.

“We are just testing your security,” the tweet read.

In a statement released Monday, LinkedIn said that it had found and removed a fake profile that had been created of Zuckerberg.

“We were alerted of this takeover attempt and have taken action to remove the false profile on LinkedIn,” the statement read.

The company declined to address whether the hack was the result of a larger data breach in 2012 that compromised over 100 million accounts. LinkedIn has taken steps to invalidate passwords from older accounts, but the breach against Zuckerberg shows that some accounts, especially those that are old or dormant, remain at risk.

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In a statement e-mailed by a spokesman Monday, Facebook said Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram accounts had not been breached.

“No Facebook systems or accounts were accessed. The affected accounts have been re-secured using best practices,” the statement read.

You should check to see if your e-mail account has been compromised. The website Have I Been Pwned? provides a useful service: Plug in your e-mail address, and the website will reveal if your data has been leaked or manipulated by hackers.

If your account has been compromised, change your password. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a cardinal sin in the security world, so make sure you mix it up, even with accounts you rarely use.

Graham Cluley, an online security expert and consultant, said that using the same passwords was a likely reason for the Zuckerberg hack. (According to the website The Hacker News, OurMine tweeted that Zuckerberg’s password was “dadada,” and was used across multiple accounts. OurMine’s Twitter account has since been suspended.)

“It shows it can happen to anyone — even geeks,” Cluley said. “The problem is that even if you have adopted sensible password practices now, your past mistakes may come back to haunt you.”

Cluley suggested obtaining a password manager, like LastPass, to keep track of your login information. He also said that wherever possible, you should enroll in two-step verification, which sends an authorization code to the user’s phone before the account can be opened.

Troy Hunt, an online security expert and the creator of Have I Been Pwned?, reiterated that a password manager was the most reliable way to stay safe.

“Without this, we risk exposing sensitive data in a way that it can put other accounts at risk, particularly via a data breach of one site, which is becoming an alarmingly common occurrence,” he said.