Online Security

Life in the digital age poses many challenges. The management and security of your online accounts is among those challenges.

With a growing number of accounts to track, it can be difficult to stay on top of everything. Follow these steps to help secure your online presence.

Online security in 4 steps.

Step 1: Create a strong, unique password for each account.

Your passwords are the only thing protecting your identity in an online environment. In order to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your accounts and devices, it is imperative to create a strong, unique password for each account. If your passwords are easy to crack, it may be possible for criminals to view and manage your accounts. Bank accounts, email accounts, social media accounts, online store accounts and small business accounts, among others, are all potential targets for such criminals. An intruder can wreak havoc on your life, and keeping them out is important.

A strong password should include a series of alphanumeric combinations, unique to each and every account. Many individuals rely on simple patterns or words, like “123456” or “password” to protect their most valuable information. Not only are these passwords easy to crack, but utilizing the same password across multiple accounts also makes it easier for cybercriminals to gain access to everything.

There are a few ways hackers can gain access to your account. Every once in awhile, a major company, such as Yahoo or Gmail, is hacked. The result is a password leak, which means that millions of passwords are suddenly available to hackers. Utilizing unique passwords protects you when a major leak takes place, because those hackers won’t be able to login to your other accounts. Basically, you’ve isolated the incident to one account.

Another way hackers can gain access is through a brute force attack. Using special software, hackers essentially try every combination of characters until they find the right one. Longer passwords are more protective than short ones when it comes to brute force attacks.

There are various other ways hackers can gain access to personal information, but a strong, unique password is the key to protecting yourself from such criminals.

What makes a strong, unique password?

It’s clear that having a strong, unique password is an important element in protecting your online security. But what does that mean?

Over the years, the definition of a strong password has changed substantially. You may have passwords that are nearly as complex as possible, and therefore impossible to remember. Perhaps it looks something like 5qT*fs2-@.

Newer research suggests that while this combination may protect against other humans, it does a poor job of protecting against computer programs built to decrypt such things. Instead of making an overly complex combination of characters, aim for a longer password (at least 16 characters). A long grouping of random words works well to protect against brute force attacks! And don’t depend solely on your brain to group random words. Because passwords should be unique to each account, consider using a random password generator to help keep things truly random. At the very least, steer clear of pop culture phrases, birthdays, anniversaries, pet names, etc.

Step 2: Securely Store Your Passwords

Online security is one step closer! Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of creating dozens of unique and random passwords for each of your online accounts, you won’t be able to remember them all. Store your passwords in a secure place.

One option is to write each password down and keep the document in a secure location, such as a safe. If you prefer to store your passwords digitally, there are a few options. Bear in mind that you’re storing all of your passwords in one place and depending on their security to keep your information safe. That said, these password managers utilize heavy encryption to to do just that.

1 – Use your browser. Whatever browser you choose to use (Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.), it likely offers a password management system. If you do opt to go this route, be sure to password protect your devices to keep others out of your protected accounts.

2 – Use a password manager. Password managers are a digital vault built to protect your online information. There are many different password managers. Click the links below to find the one that best suits you, if you opt to go this route.

A. KeePass (Free, one device)
B. Dashlane (Free for one device, $4.99 per month for premium)
C. Sticky Password (Free for one device, $29.99 per year for premium)
D. 1Password ($2.99 per month)
E. RoboForm (Free, $1.99 per month for premium)
F. bitwarden (Free, $10 per year for premium)
G. LastPass (Free, $2.00 per month for premium)

Step 3: Use 2-Step Verification

Many accounts support two-step verification. For a hacker to login to any account that requires two-step verification, they will need more than your password and username. It could be a code sent to a mobile number. While the two-step verification isn’t perfect and adds an extra step when signing into new devices, it does add a valuable layer of protection.

Step 4: Protect Your Computer

Now that you know what steps to take for online security, it’s also worth noting that you may also need to protect your computer. Malware can compromise the safety of your login credentials, and an anti-malware service can help protect you even more.

Digital, online security, though daunting, is important. Spend the time to secure your online presence and be immediately rewarded with peace of mind.