The Simple Password That Got One of the Most Famous Hackers Hacked

You’ll never guess what he decided to use.

Password box in Internet Browser on Computer Screen Valeri Potapova/ShutterstockThink about it: When is the last time you changed your password? Lots of rookie mistakes can leave you vulnerable to online hackers, yet none are as easy to crack as that one key phrase. Unfortunately for one “mastermind” hacker, however, his own trick turned against him.

Yes, that’s right—one weak password led to this talented techie’s downfall. Jeremy Hammond will spend 10 years in prison after authorities accessed incriminating files on his computer. But they didn’t do so with any fancy gadgets or tech tools; they simply typed in his password, the name of his cat followed by the numbers 123.

“My password was really weak,” Hammond admitted to the Associated Press. “Chewy 123.”

The “hacktivist” has played a role in cyber attacks against a private defense firm, law enforcement agencies, and “thousands of innocent individuals,” prosecutors say. He even claims to have cracked into dozens of U.S. government websites, aiming to “expose and confront injustice.”

It may be unlikely that you spend your time digging into government documents, but here is the moral of the story: You won’t regret getting a bit more creative with your passwords. No matter which phrase you decide to go with, your best bet is to include a long string of letters, numbers, and special characters that could not be guessed from a bit of background research.

Now that you know how important your password really is, make sure you don’t fall for these other security tricks hackers are using against you.

[Sources: The Telegraph, ABC News]

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.