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How much is your Gmail worth to a hacker?

My life on the internet is worth surprisingly little cash.

By Popular Science Jul 3, 2013 3:32PM
By Shaunacy Ferro

Earlier this year, cyber attacks were listed as America's top security threat. The internet is a dangerous place! While it's one thing to talk about hacking weapons secrets or banks, let's get personal: What about our email accounts?

When it comes to Gmail access, where people (read: me) store waaaay too much sensitive info, what's the price tag for an average cyber thief? How much can they fetch for the information that shuffles through my boring old inbox every day?
Screenshot via Cloudsweeper
According to Cloudsweeper, a project from the University of Illinois at Chicago's BITS Networked Systems Laboratory, not that much, considering how inconvenient it would be for me if someone hacked into my Netflix, my Wordpress, my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Cloudsweeper offers an "account theft audit" that runs a diagnostic on your email account, and spits out a number as to how much money the account access within it would garner a cyber criminal.

Search: Email Safety Tips

This is how it works: Once you grant the Cloudsweeper app access to whatever Gmail account you're signed into (it doesn't ask you for your password, and doesn't keep your credentials), it scans your email to check if a hacker would be able to access accounts for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and more, then estimates a price for those passwords based on the recent black market prices offered for compromised accounts.

In the results of a scan of my own email, Cloudsweeper notes that a few accounts allow for a password reset based on just an email--like Groupon (you're welcome to my expired coupons for shuttered businesses, hackers), Apple (Cloudsweeper suggests access to my account is worth $8) and Tumblr (worth a whopping 30 cents). With a bit of extra info, a hacker could also access my Facebook account ($5 value) or my Twitter (30 cents). Take note, would-be hackers: I'm worth disappointingly little money--a grand total of $13.60.

Bing: How not to get hacked

But somehow that doesn't make my information feel that much safer: A scan of the potential plain text passwords in my account pulled up…well, a lot. The service also allows you to either encrypt the messages with passwords in them, or redact the passwords permanently, without affecting the rest of the message.

UIC assistant professor Chris Kanich and his team created Cloudsweeper as part of a study of security and cloud-based data storage. Users that opt in can allow the service to gather anonymous data on things like how many types of accounts people tie to their Gmail, and whether people choose to redact or encrypt plain text passwords the audit discovers.

Screenshot via Cloudsweeper

More from Popular Science:
Jul 10, 2013 3:25AM
Who needs a hacker to screw you over when the IRS publishes SS #'s?
Jul 10, 2013 2:59AM
Jul 10, 2013 2:17AM
Hackers actually help me.  They are that passive-aggressive force bringing equilibrium to those who think they can get away with their petty antics without having to worry about it catching up to them.   If you're not inherently a fool, then you're probably not on their radar.
Jul 10, 2013 1:43AM
Not worried anymore about sharing sensitive information or pictures online. I signed up for a free account with a company called FileLife and now I can track and control all access to my electronic information.
Jul 10, 2013 1:20AM
If and when I catch a real Hacker, I promise you, I will slit his throat and put it on the internet for all the other stupid hackers to see. Then I will continue to hunt down all the other hackers until there are no hackers left. Remember there is nothing worse on this planet then the scum hacker. So, to all hackers I say to you from my heart...DIE YOU GRAVY SUCKING PIGS.....DIE
Jul 9, 2013 11:44PM
What's with all the damned whipped cream on top of the milkshakes?! KNOCK IT OFF ALREADY, McDonald's and Burger King! GEEZ!!!
Jul 9, 2013 7:19PM
the biggest hackers is facebook and every one know that the steal all your privacy and sell it to any one !!!!
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