WOODBURY - A published report says Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion usernames and passwords in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites.

The New York Times says the thievery was uncovered by Hold Security, a Milwaukee firm that has a history of sifting out online security breaches.

Officials say a Russian crime gang, nicknamed CyberVor, is the group responsible for what could be the largest theft of digital credentials in history.

Brian Heid, assistant district attorney in Nassau's Economic Crimes Bureau, says the best way to protect against hackers is to create a secure password that includes numbers and letters in both upper and lower cases. He says passwords should vary for different accounts.

AP Wire Services contributed to this report