The internet is literally at our fingertips day in and day out. With all of our information, from bills to banking to medical records, being available through apps on our smartphones and online portals, keeping your accounts secure should be one of our biggest concerns. However, most of us have become complacent when it comes to the passwords we use to protect our personal information. This leaves us vulnerable to identity theft. With large scale hacks from celebrity iPhones to Yahoo, it’s time to rethink our passwords.
1. Always Use Unique Passwords
Using the same password for all of your accounts is a big no-no. This leaves you vulnerable to having all of your information out there for the taking. The average person has over 20 different logins spread across a wide variety of websites, but they probably don’t use 20 unique passwords for each of those accounts. In order to make sure all of your information is secure, you need to have a unique password for each of your online accounts.
2. Avoid Being Predictable
Steer clear of the obvious, such as using your birthdate, the names of your kids, street address, or anything else that can be easily tied to you. Also, try not to use any of the most common passwords, including password, 123456, baseball, and football. All of these were in Splashdata’s top 10 worst passwords list for 2015, and should definitely not be used to secure your personal information. If your password is predictable, consists of one word, or is on the list of worst passwords, then it’s time to rethink your account security.
3. Follow a Strong Password Formula
While there is no standard for creating a password that will guarantee your account won’t be hacked, there are formulas you can follow to increase the strength of the passwords you use. Generally, the higher the quantity, and wider the variety of characters you use, the stronger your password will be. According to Microsoft’s website, you should choose a password that uses at least 6 characters, and mixes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The result will be a more secure password.
4. Use a Password Manager
A password manager is essentially a digital address book for all of your online accounts. You can use this to keep all of your usernames and passwords stored in a secure database. This frees you from having to remember every single password for every single account and also prevents you from having to do multiple password recoveries when you inevitably forget a password. Instead, you have one, hopefully very strong, password to remember so you can access your online accounts database.
5. Use 2-Step Verification when Available
2-Step Verification, or Two-Factor Authorization, gives your account a second layer of protection. First, you enter your password to sign on, then a verification code is texted to your phone that you have to enter in order to complete the login. By enabling this feature, you are ensuring that no one will be able to access your account without your knowledge. You will receive a verification code if someone attempts to access your account.
Following these steps will have you well on your way to keeping your personal information safe. You will be able to significantly decrease the likelihood of your personal information becoming compromised by creating strong, discreet passwords, and avoiding untrusted sources when online.