July 15, 2016 Leave a comment
The Internet is a glorious thing! These days we use it for work, play, education, shopping, and more – and we all have many, many different password-protected accounts, so we can check our email, watch movies, check our kids’ progress in school, and request books from the local library. Unfortunately, for every person who’s a good citizen of the Internet, there’s someone else trying to steal personal information. This is why it’s so important to have strong passwords. Read on to find some simple dos and don’ts to help you stay safe online.
Do change your passwords frequently. If someone has been working at breaking into your account, all their progress will be lost. Also, make them at least eight characters long. The longer a password is, the harder it will be to crack.
Don’t use characters that appear consecutively on a keyboard (“12345,” “qwerty”), and don’t use words found in the dictionary, words spelled backward, common misspellings, or slang terms. These passwords are easy to guess, and there is even software out there to assist hackers in cracking such combinations.
Do use a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and other characters. Consider creating a password that stands for a phrase or sentence, such as “Hs:mP$2009” to stand for “Home security: my passion since 2009” or “Iat#1HPf” to stand for “I am the number one Harry Potter fan.”
Don’t use words relevant to your personal life as passwords, such as the names or birthdays of kids or pets, the company you work for, or your middle name. It won’t take more than a little research on your Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page for a person with bad intentions to find this information. Also consider this when choosing security questions to answer in case you forget your password. (Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account was once broken into by people who easily figured out the answers to her security questions.) Hackers can dig up your mom’s maiden name even if she never uses the Internet. Try to choose something less easily availble – perhaps the name of your favorite high school teacher.
Do use a different password for each account. If you use only one password and someone figures it out, they now have access to all your many online accounts.
Don’t leave your passwords on a sticky note at your desk or keep an obvious list of passwords on any of your devices. This sounds fairly obvious, but it’s a common mistake.
Do consider using an online password manager that will store your multiple passwords for you. Then you’ll only have to remember one very strong password to access your list. Alternatively, you can make a diguised password list on a device by creating a file with a title that looks like other files on your device (say, “LessonPlans_July” if you’re a teacher) but that you know is something different than what it’s labeled. Be sure to hide your passwords among other information in that file.
Don’t click on any links asking you to divulge or change your password, even if they look legitimate. If a company has suffered an information breach, they should email or text you and ask you to independently log on and update your account. When in doubt, always type in the URL for the site yourself. Don’t click on any links that seem odd or out of place, such as a strangely worded advertisement for a weight loss drug that your friend seems to have posted on Facebook. Clicking on that link will likely allow your account to be hacked as well.
Do be vigilant about logging off when using public computers or even your own devices on public networks. If at all possible, don’t enter any passwords when you’re on a public device (such as a computer at the library) or public network (such as the local coffee shop’s free wi-fi), as there is more likely to be malware or keystroke loggers present in these scenarios to steal your information.
Don’t give your passwords out to anyone, not even a spouse or close friend. Unfortunately, someone whom you trust today may not be so trustworthy in the future. Or perhaps that person might write down your password to help them remember it and then lose the note or forget to destroy it, potentially allowing your password to fall into the wrong hands.
Do use a lock screen if it’s an option on your device. Most smart phones and even some computers can be set so they can only be unlocked with a pattern drawn on the screen or a fingerprint that matches one already on file. While these features are not available for use on websites (yet?), keeping your device locked will make it that much harder for hackers to access your Internet history and other personal info.
Having strong, smart passwords is essential to keeping so much information safe: your bank balance, your medical history, your friends’ addresses and phone numbers, the features of your home security system. At Protectus Security Home & Business Security Systems in Dallas, we want to ensure that you are as safe as you can possibly be – online and in the real world.