Are Your Password Habits Keeping You Safe Online?
Learning how to navigate our entire lives online has definitely been a steep learning curve for many of us over the last few weeks. Whether it’s working from home, helping our kids learn from home, conducting ‘wine time’ from home or even doing our Zumba classes from home – it’s essential now more than ever that we are doing this safely. And one of the most powerful yet simple ways we can ‘sure-up’ our online safety is by being smart with our passwords.
World Password Day – Take A Minute To Check Your Approach
Today is World Password Day – the perfect opportunity to ensure we are doing all we can to manage our online logins. It’s quite unsettling to think that one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to get their hands on the sensitive information we store in our online accounts is through our passwords.
Passwords act like a key to our digital identity. Not only do they allow us to bank, shop, work, learn, date and socialise online but they also protect us as well. Strong, complex passwords ensure all the information we store online (aka our digital assets) are protected which is essential for our privacy and financial and personal security.
So, let’s use this annual event to make sure we are doing all we can to lock down our precious online data by managing our passwords properly.
Same Password For Every Account? – Rookie Error
If I had to count up all my online accounts on my fingers and toes, I would quickly run out of body parts! With so many logins to remember, many of us end of using the same password for every account. And while that might seem so practical it, in fact, makes us very vulnerable. Just think about this scenario: if you become the victim of an online scam and the password to one of your online accounts is stolen, then a cybercriminal can then use this same password to access all your online accounts.
So, before you know it, a cybercriminal can access your emails, bank accounts, online shopping accounts – that may have stored credit cards, private photo and video files.
What You Can Do TODAY to Ensure your Password Habits are Keeping you Safe
Yes, we are all human which means we are going to take shortcuts. I get it! I love shortcuts – I’m a fan of using pasta sauce from the jar! But if there’s one area where shortcuts should NOT be used it’s with passwords. So, here are my top suggestions on how you can stop your private online data falling into the wrong hands and block cybercriminals at the very first point of entry.
Commit to NOT Using Common Passwords
If your password is ‘123456’ then you need to change it now. The UK’s National Cyber Safety Centre showed in a survey last year that this is the most commonly used password. In fact, in the eight years since I’ve been doing this job, this password has annually topped surveys.
Passwords are the gateway to our digital lives. To avoid giving the wrong people access to your accounts, make sure you create strong and unique passwords. This means including numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters and symbols. The more complex your password, the more difficult it is to crack. Why not create a nonsensical phrase or sentence? And always avoid using simple personal details within your password altogether. Your date of birth, middle name or pet names are things cybercriminals can trace through your social media accounts.
Same Password For Every Account? Think Again
The idea of having one password across all online accounts is alluring because let’s admit it…we’ve all been locked out of an account after failing to remember the password! While having one password to remember for all accounts seems to make life easier, it increases the risk of your vital online data being compromised at once across different accounts. So, ensure that your logins are unique for every account to avoid having all your accounts becoming vulnerable in case you are hacked.
ALWAYS Select Multi-Factor Authentication
Wherever possible, embrace multifactor authentication (MFA) for online accounts. MFA is a security system that requires more than one way of identification before gaining access to an account. Most commonly, it involves a security code sent to your smartphone, security questions or even a fingerprint, on top of the password. An extra layer of defence to stop sham access to vital online data? Yes please!
Give Your Passwords a Health Check
What better way to check the health of your passwords than to see whether they’ve been compromised in a data breach. The website www.haveibeenpwned.com.au is an effective way to check whether a cybercriminal has discovered your passwords. If yes, give your passwords an overhaul and change them wherever they are used to safeguard your data.
Employ A Password Manager
If you are currently feeling a tad overwhelmed at the thought of creating and managing unique passwords for your multiple online accounts, do not stress – I have a solution – a password manager. This marvellous software program will create random and complex passwords for each of your accounts and store them securely which means you don’t need to! All you need to do is remember the master password!! When choosing a password manager, ensure it uses multi-factor authentication to identify you eg facial recognition, fingerprint and a password.
If you have a spare 30 minutes today then please take the time to give your password habits an overhaul. I know we are all so flat out juggling work and kids at the moment but a careless approach to password security is no different to a careless approach to home security. So, get your passwords working for you so you can continue living your life online – especially Friday night ‘virtual drinks’!!