Sandra Dick: Hacking is high price to pay

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Name of first pet. No? OK, what about name of first pet owned by the next-door neighbour?

How about ‘colour of eyes of the first pet owned by old lady in the creepy house at the end of the street you grew up in’?

Must contain capital letter, a number, a symbol, your star sign, inside leg measurement, your cup size and be written in virgin’s blood.

And don’t forget, it has to be something that as soon as you put it into the ‘new password’ box, you’ll instantly forget forever. Repeat process, finish by slamming laptop shut, pounding head off desk and screaming for mercy.

Like the rest of the UK, I spent part of my weekend renewing my eBay password, having first jumped through the online hoops necessary to remind myself of the old password before creating my new one. Still with me?

I’m blowed if I know how hackers can actually be bothered faffing around with the nation’s passwords. The rewards must be rich indeed if they can handle the hell of trying to figure out where each of us was born, what our first car was and our favourite childhood food, particularly as most of the time we can’t remember these things ourselves.

But then again, our passwords are the least of our worries. For the hackers who breached eBay’s security system weren’t interested in bidding for ‘designer’ handbags and used kids’ clothes on our behalf, they wanted – and got – our very valuable personal data including addresses, e-mails, phone numbers, birth dates and names of who knows how many of the auction site’s 145 million users.

It’s information that leaves us open to all kinds of identity fraud – worth more to geeky hackers than if we’d simply tweeted our bank details, Pin numbers and an invitation to help themselves to the already maxed-out overdraft.

Worryingly, this breach took eBay three months to spot and comes after other serious hacks on major sites like Mumsnet and Yahoo.

Unfortunately, as high street shops close to make way for allegedly faster, quicker, easier online shopping and we’re forced to put personal details into more websites – like it or not – these security breaches will only get worse. According to one cybersecurity expert I saw quoted, we already have between 20 to 50 passwords to remember or, I suspect, to forget.

When it takes half a day to remember a password, change it and eventually log on, it does make you wonder if the ‘good old days’ of nipping down the high street was really such a major chore after all.