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A Change (in Passwords) Would do You Good

We use the internet for everything. Banking, shopping, sharing photos, connecting with friends,storing data and more. Which means passwords are also a big part of our lives. But, are you doing enough to protect yourself from hackers? Chances are, the answer is no. And, you’re not alone. Several celebrities have been the target of recent hacker attacks: Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Keith Richards to name a few. Even Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has fallen victim. And, let’s face it, if the creator of the largest social media network can fall prey, we all need to do better. But how do you make your online world more secure and, maybe even the bigger question, how do you remember all those darn passwords!?

Let’s start with the easiest question of the two- what can you do to protect yourself?  First, make sure you have strong passwords consisting of a combination of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols. The longer and more varied a password is, the more difficult it is to break. Many people have the tendency to use names, other personal information, or number sequences. One word of advice on those types of passwords- DON’T. These are all too easy for a hacker to breach. Instead, if you must use something relatable, using a quote, song lyrics or another string of words mixed with numbers and symbols is a better idea. Or, even better, use a random password generator to create them so the password has no word association to you at all.

 (Photo courtesy of: betterbuys.com)

 (Photo courtesy of: betterbuys.com)

Second, Don’t use the same password for everything. I know this sounds like a password101 tip, but in a world where it seems like every website we access has login credentials, it’s tempting to limit yourself to a few passwords that are either rotated or changed by just one number, letter or symbol. And many of us, 54% according to Entrepreneur.com, are guilty of it- because it’s easy and *we can remember it.* However, this puts you at higher risk to be hacked because should one account be compromised, others can quickly follow suit. Or, worse yet…not so quickly. Take the recent news about MySpace’s hack (Yeah. Remember that site?), for example, where over 360 million user records were exposed. Despite the fact most people haven’t even thought about their MySpace account for years, Entrepreneur.com reports 21% of  people are still using passwords that are over 10 years old and 47% are using passwords that are at least five years old. Yikes! That means many of the passwords involved in that hack are still actively in use! In short, you wouldn’t install locks for everything in your life (car, home, work, etc.) that all require the same key, right? So, why would you allow one key to access everything in your online life?

Another great option to help fortify your password: two-step authentication. By requiring a user to log in then enter a generated temporary code, this is one of our favorite ways to keep your password secure. Sure it requires a second step, but waiting the few seconds for a code via email, call or text (the most common delivery systems) is worth the security this step provides. Unfortunately, many websites don’t immediately require this type of sign in and you’ll often have to search their website to enable it. The good news is, this feature is available on many popular sites you likely use, including Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon and PayPal so you can put it into effect immediately.

But, how do you remember all of these super secure and likely randomized chain of characters you’ve created? Don’t write them down! Although this seems the best way to keep track of passwords, it’s also an easy method for others to gain access to them and, in turn, your private accounts. Instead, we suggest a password manager like LastPass or dashlane.  Both are secure password vaults that provide great security features for password protection and account safety.  And, it’s optimal for any account passwords that need to be shared with others. Instead of sending passwords through emails or chat systems, which is typical in business settings but also a common way hackers can gain access to your passwords, passwords can easily be shared through your vault system. This will allow the other party to securely receive the password and utilize it, but without the ability to view or change it.

Keeping your systems up to date, being conscious of what you download, using anti-virus software like Webroot, and being cautious of public Wi-fi connections also play a part in keeping your accounts safe. Additionally, visiting sites such as haveibeenpwned periodically, allows you to monitor for suspicious activity or breaches, reducing the effect of a hack. While these are all great tips to prevent your accounts from being hacked, it can still happen. However, being cautious and unsystematic with your password is a good start to keeping your accounts safe.  For more information on a subscription and installation of Webroot cybersecurity for your system’s protection or how a managed service program can assist with keeping your computer up-to-date, let us know! We’d love to help make your life easier and your online world more secure.