Are Your Passwords Secure? 6 Tips for Protecting Your Data

These days, one of the most common security threats people face comes from the internet. We all rely on a number of user names and passwords to access our personal data. From banking and email to shopping and job applications, there is a great deal of our personal information available to those who want to find it on the internet.

What happens when those credentials are compromised? If you have done anything online, the chances are good that you are one of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide whose data has been exposed. Although you can't do much to prevent massive breaches like those at Equifax, DoorDash and Facebook in recent years, you can take measures to keep yourself safe.

One of the first things you can do to protect yourself online is to create strong passwords. Gone are the days when you could get by using the same password for all of your accounts or using your birth date for your PIN. The reality of security today is that we all need to be on top of securing our data.

6 Tips for Keeping Your Passwords Secure

With passwords, the longer and more complex the better. Let’s discuss some of the ways you can protect your personal information with user names and passwords that are unique enough to thwart hackers.

Avoid using your personal data.

Much of our personal information such as birth dates, addresses, phone numbers and the names of relatives can be found on the internet. Even a simple search on social media can pull up a lot of this information. Avoid using any personal data that is publicly available and easy for hackers to find.

Shorten a long, but memorable phrase.   

Rather than using a simple word, number and symbol combination, choose a memorable phrase that has meaning to you as the basis for your password. For example, you may select the lyrics to a favorite song or a made-up sentence that is unique to you. Shorten the phrase by removing all but the first letter of each word. Finally, replace some letters with numbers or symbols.

The famous Billy Joel song "Piano Man" can translate into many complex passwords, including SuSP1an0m@n or B1ll1ePm@n.

Replace letters with symbols.  

As you may have seen in the above tip, some letters can be replaced by numbers or special characters to provide even more password complexity. Adding unexpected symbols in your password can help deter password hacking software and keep your accounts safe.

Never save your password if prompted.

Many browsers and websites ask if you’d like to save your password to make signing on in the future quicker and easier. Although this may seem like a convenient and time-saving offer, this is never recommended. Saving this data means that a third party has access to your user name and password, reducing your security and leaving you at risk for a compromised account.   

Be aware of phishing and scams.

These days there are tons of scammers out there who are looking to make money off of people online. Phishing, the practice of attempting to gather personal information from people using fake emails, websites and other online means, is an all-too-common threat on the internet.

To avoid being the victim of a phishing scheme, be skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true, like a free vacation or gift card for completing a brief survey. Do not trust emails that ask for personal banking information, PINs or your social security number, even if they appear to be from your bank or the government. Be wary of emails that are riddled with misspellings and poor grammar. If you are unsure if an email is legitimate, do not reply, call a telephone number from within the email or click on any links in the email.

Get a password manager.

Many people keep track of their user names and passwords by recording them in a spreadsheet or written on a piece of paper. What happens when your laptop is stolen or when that paper is lost? Do not risk your personal information falling into the wrong hands.

Use a password manager to store all of your login credentials in an encrypted format so that they are protected from hackers. Instead of remembering (or struggling to remember) all of your passwords, you will only have to know one password to access your online accounts. Some trusted options include LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password.

Online Security Starts with You 

The topic of security online is complicated. Creating strong passwords is just one of the first steps we can take to protect ourselves online. For more information on internet safety for consumers, visit the Federal Trade Commission website to learn more about keeping your identity secure.

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