Cyber attacks will be significantly worse in 2024 for anyone who uses a digital device.

Yet few are aware of, or prepared for, the threats they face — or how their poor cybersecurity skills are putting them and their families at incredible risk.

Case in point:

Last year, the top 10 weakest passwords were pretty much the same as they were in prior years, which offers a tremendous opportunity for cyber scammers to rob us blind.

You see, scammers are really good at guessing passwords — the weaker the password, the faster they can crack our code.

Here’s how scammers work:

First, they send us multiple fake emails or texts that look to be legitimate — spoofed emails from people we know or companies we do business with — hoping we click on the fraudulent links they embed.

Maybe it’s a “receipt” from Amazon that thanks us for our recent $300 order and asks us to click the link provided if we have questions about the order.

Or maybe it’s a special credit-card offer from your bank — except that it’s from an Internet address that has nothing to do with your bank.

If you “click here to apply” you will unwittingly allow scammers to install a malicious code into your computer that allows them to root around, hoping to find login and password details to gain access to your banking or credit card accounts.

Even if they don’t discover the passwords they need, it won’t take them but a few seconds to crack the weakest ones.

According to the password managing company NordPass, the most commonly used passwords of 2023 are embarrassingly simpleminded.

The most popular password was “123456.” Scammers — and my dog, Thurber — can crack that one in less than 1 second.

“Admin” is the second most popular password. It and No. 7, “password,” also can be cracked in less than 1 second.

If you want to see how easy your passwords are to crack, type them into a password detector, such as this one from bitwarden.

The regrettable fact is, in the digital world in which we all now live, cyber scammers are working overtime to come up with ever-more-clever schemes to defraud us.

For example, ransomware attacks grew exponentially last year.

Ransomware is malicious software that scammers use to encrypt a company’s or individual’s data and block access to it until a hefty sum of money is paid.

Google the words “ransomware attack” and you’ll see a sizable list of individuals, big companies and entire cities that have been completely shut down by increasingly sophisticated scammers.

Another big trend: Activists who support various political causes are launching attacks on individuals and businesses who support their enemies.

Utilities and infrastructure that are using outdated systems are especially vulnerable to attacks.

But our elderly face the greatest risk of cyber fraud because they are much more likely to trust people who email them or call them than younger generations are.

As we head into 2024, all of us must realize we are facing a new level of risk from cyber scammers.

We must learn what these risks are and learn to detect and thwart them so we can protect ourselves, our families and especially our elders from harm.

Improving our password skills is an obvious place to start. Here’s what a secure password might look like:

StopScammers1178#@!!in2024&&!!

According to bitwarden, it would take scammers centuries to crack that one!

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Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].