On the Web, protecting personal information is of utmost importance. Passwords unlock everything you've stored online. If a malicious stranger has access to your accounts, a whole range of horrible events may happen.
Targets may become victims of identity theft. Some have financial resources stolen or manipulated.
Still others have their computer accounts hacked -- then the hacker blasts the victim's entire e-mail contact list with scam e-mails that attempt to exploit the target's friends and professional acquaintances. Even if his or her colleagues sidestep the hacking attempt, they'll not look fondly on the victim's lack of cyber smarts.
So do what you can to minimize these risks. For instance, don't use an easy-to-guess password. And don't enter passwords into public computers if at all possible. Lack of monitoring means hackers can use public computers to harvest passwords and account information.
And although all e-mail services offer them, be leery of password security questions (name of your high school, mother's maiden name and other information) as hackers can often quickly dredge up this information with a simple search. With the answer to your security problem in hand, they'll worm their way into your online life and cause problems you can't anticipate.