With summer comes permission to relax a little more, sun a little more, and fun a little more. But, as Newton’s Third Law reminds us, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Apply that principle to online safety and it might read like this: Each time you relax your family’s digital security a little, there’s a hacker nearby who will step up his or her schemes accordingly.
If your summer routine includes more traveling, online gaming, or time for social connecting, your first line of digital defense is strong, unhackable passwords.
Now is a great time to pump up those passwords to make sure your summer playlist streams seamlessly and summer goes off without a hitch. (Note: If you feel confident in your password strength, type your email address into the site ;– Have I been pwned? to see if your passwords have been compromised).
5 Tips to Pump Up Your Password Strength
- Think strength. It’s never too late to put serious thought into creating strong passwords. Begin today. Visualize your password as a superhero. Because of their strength, superheroes like Hulk, Thor, or Optimus Prime can handily protect the world. Strip them of their strength, and each warrior becomes an average Joe vulnerable to the elements of evil. Strength is inherent to password power. Infuse your password with superhero strength by including numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols. The more complex your password is, the more difficult it will be for a crook to crack (it’s okay to add a personal touch to your password). A few examples of a secure password might be: myDogisCr@yCr@y!!, Ilov3Gummi3B3ars!! or $oundOfMu$ic_1965.
- Get a password manager. If you are driving yourself crazy trying to wrangle a million passwords, a password manager will do the remembering for you. A powerful password manager will: Generate random passwords that are difficult to guess, require Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), auto-save and securely enter your passwords on frequented sites.
- Use unique passwords and MFA. If taken seriously, these two extra steps could save you a million headaches. 1) Use unique passwords for each of your accounts. By using different passwords, you avoid having all of your accounts become vulnerable if you are hacked (think domino effect). 2) MFA is Multi-Factor Authentication (also called two-step verification or authentication ). MFA confirms a user’s identityonly after presenting two or more pieces of evidence. Though not 100% secure, this practice adds a layer of security to an account.
- Pay attention and take action. It might be summer, but if you snooze, you will lose — privacy in this case. Be sure to pay attention to the news and know if a data breach affects your family. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the number of U.S. data breach incidents in2017 hit a new record high, rising a drastic 44.7 percent over 2016. Popular sites such as Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter have experienced breaches might easily have affected you or a member of your family.
- Connect carefully. So you’ve done everything you can to create strong passwords and that’s awesome! What you can’t control is how others protect your account data, which often includes passwords. Make sure that websites, platforms, and companies that have access to your sensitive information take security seriously and have privacy and security plans in place. Google the company before you establish an account to see if it has had a data breach.
What are the potential consequences of a weak password? A determined hacker can track a person’s online activity, identify and hack weak passwords then use those weak passwords to access banking information, credit card numbers, and personal data used to steal a person’s identity. Remember: Just as you go to work each morning to put food on the table for your family, a hacker has similar goals. So, work with equal diligence to protect what’s yours.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).