How safe are you on the internet?

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Written By Mahmoud Sarvari

Hackers have stolen sensitive personal data and sent armed police teams crashing into the homes of online mums in swatting attacks in the past few days.

Even the robust bastion of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has fallen to foul of technology robbers who stole at least 300,000 passwords and other user data by electronically breaking into secure servers.

The move followed the revelation of sensitive and intimate personal details of thousands of love cheats who had looked for affairs on web site Ashley Madison. The information was dumped online and at least three web sites are providing open access to those who suspect their spouses or partners looked for dates through the site.

Hackers called The Impact Group posted around 10 gigabytes of data from the Ashley Madison servers.

Swatting attacks

If you want to check if someone you know is listed, go to or to the Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) web site that lets internet users check if their details have been stolen and displayed online. The HIBP database has more than 30 million email addresses listed.

If having your personal life plastered over the web is not bad enough, swatting is the latest outrageous internet prank.

The idea of swatting is to find out the home address of someone you dislike online and then call the police and report an armed intruder at the property.

The founder of parenting forum Mumsnet Justine Roberts was a victim when a police armed response team broke into her house in London after receiving a hoax call from hackers belonging to a  group called @dadsnet who stole passwords and usernames from the web site.

Another forum user who spoke out against the group also suffered a similar fate.

Protecting passwords

Dozens of other web sites have suffered hack attacks, including business social media network LinkedIn.

The best defence, according to security experts, is to opt for double factor authentication that locks your online account to a single device. Web sites like Google, Facebook and DropBox all use double authentication to protect data.

A password manager is also recommended – several paid-for services do the job, but one free open source app is KeePass. A plugin also synchs with Google Drive.

“Don’t use family, pet or birthday related passwords and change them regularly to keep secure online,” said a KeePass spokesman.