When it comes to the question of digital security, it’s easy to let technology do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. With a good anti-virus and a high-quality firewall, what else are you going to need? There’s one element that constantly lets users down their passwords. Compromised passwords can see your sensitive data being leaked, either being made public or being sold or given to those who could use it to do real harm, at the cost of your emotional well-being and perhaps even your financial well-being, too.
What are the big risks when it comes to your password and how do you ensure that you’re giving it the protections that it needs? We’re going to look at a few now.
Don’t share passwords between accounts
It’s an effortless and common habit to get into, but it’s also one of the biggest causes of people losing access to multiple accounts. A lot of companies, including big ones like Facebook and Microsoft, have experienced data breaches, losing data including user passwords. If a company has a breach and you lose a password that also accesses other accounts you use, then you’re opening yourself up to a lot of potential harm. One of the best ways to do this is to use a password manager to ensure you can track your different passwords across accounts.
Create strong passwords
The idea of using ‘password’ as a password has, at this point, become a very common joke, but it has its roots in an all too true reality. Many people tend to use relatively simple passwords, be they things like common words or phrases, birth dates of loved ones, or otherwise. The simpler a password is, the easier it is to brute force it. The best passwords use long chains of different characters, including lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and special characters where allowed. Remembering a lot of passwords with these characters can be something of a challenge, so coming up with some kind of mnemonic or logic that allows you to more easily remember them is a good idea. But so too is using software that can automate the process for you.
But be mindful of what password manager you use
The password manager has become one of the most useful tools in securing passwords as of late. If you use a password manager, it can auto-generate strong passwords for you and store them on your device so that you technically don’t have to remember them all: you can access them with the help of one master password (which you should definitely remember.) However, not all password managers are equal. Some have experienced large and repeated breaches, themselves. Do your research on any password manager you’re using to ensure that they have a good track record of investing in security for their own data.
Keep your security software up-to-date
We’ve mentioned that overreliance on security software can leave you a little complacent when it comes to your online security, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be using it. There are many types of malware that can put your password in jeopardy, few of them as pervasive as keyloggers. What is a keylogger? As the name implies, it’s a relatively simple piece of malware that logs every keystroke you make and when you make it. This can allow the one behind the software to get access to your passwords due to you typing them in. Using a password manager can reduce the number of times that you have to type your own password, but software such as VPNs and antiviruses can protect your PC against keyloggers, too. Just make sure that you keep them updated.
Know where and when to share your passwords
Phishing scams are a very common way for people to get a hold of passwords, masquerading in emails, calls, or on sites that are designed to look like a real brand or provider that you have a password with. Know the signs of phishing scams so that any time you get someone asking you for login details, you can identify if it’s a fraud. If you’re not certain, you can always hang up or ignore it and then find the official number of that company to ask if the communication is legitimate.
With the tips above, you should be able to ensure that your passwords are protected as possible. Just be sure to be mindful of any attempts to ask you for your password and to check that they are legit before you give up any sensitive information.