A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine had his PayPal account hacked. Thankfully, the perpetrators hadn’t gotten to playing around with the cash in the account, thanks to PayPal’s email notification system and the 1-2 business days it takes to transfer cash from the bank.
This is one of the many faces of Internet safety and security that proves once again that cyber security is a big deal. Passwords are an important part of cyber security and usually the first line of defense when it comes to staying safe while roaming the Internet. Most of us continue to fall victim to password-related security incidences, even with the large, scary pop-ups and descriptions on signup forms and login pages warning us of impending doom if we dare use weak or repetitive passwords.
Poor password habits are actually more common than you think. Over half of internet users use the same password over two or more sites, according to a recent TeleSign survey. Many of these passwords often remain unchanged for years, making it easy for hackers to crack them.
Additionally, for the 2,000 individuals who participated in this survey, close to half of them had at least one incident involving password theft or an account that was hacked.
The 2012 LinkedIn data breach also provided a glimpse into the ugly state of affairs when it came to passwords and information security. Analysts who looked at the data said that they had decrypted about 90% of passwords obtained from the breach in just under 3 days.
Not surprisingly, the most common password was “123456,” closely followed by “LinkedIn,” and “password.” Identity thieves or hackers don’t need to be IT-savvy individuals to crack such passwords, which unfortunately happens a little too often.
Practicing Good Password Habits
Password theft can result in a number of unwarranted effects, both personally and financially. So it always pays to be level-headed and aware when coming up with passwords and when you are giving them out on a site.
There are a number of simple, practical steps you can take to ensure you protect yourself on the Internet. Here are some of the best.
1. Come up with a Strong Password
This is the oldest rule in the book. A password with a mix of numbers, alphabetical letters, and symbols will go a long way in deterring potential hackers. Also avoid personalized passwords with any of your names because these are the simplest to break.
If you don’t want to spend time coming up with strong passwords, you can opt to use a random password generator to come up with a good password. Choose one that generates passwords that make sense since these will be easier to remember.
2. Use Two-factor Authentication
Passwords are only one of the main lines of defense when it comes to online safety and security. Even the strongest passwords will benefit greatly from the addition of an extra layer of security.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a technique that combines traditional passwords with an extra layer of security such as your cell phone. When you (or a potential hacker) try to log into an account with 2FA, a text or phone call verification will be required in addition to the correct password.
Many websites have automatically integrated 2FA into their processes, especially the likes of PayPal that deal with sensitive personal and financial information.
3. Use Unique Passwords on Different Platforms
Many of us find it hard to remember multiple passwords, which makes it tempting to create one password for multiple accounts. Over 73% of Internet users practice this habit that has seen only six unique passwords being used to protect an average of 24 accounts.
If you have several online accounts and have trouble remembering the passwords to each of them, you can use a password manager to store your passwords. This nifty piece of software will not only store your passwords, but can also be used to log you into your accounts, change or update your passwords.
Practice Internet Safety
Social media and online financial transactions have grown exponentially over the past couple of years. For many of these transactions, a single password is usually the only thing protecting members of the online community from identity and financial theft.
Practicing good password habits will not only protect you from hackers, but will also save you time that you could have wasted trying to recover lost information or funds.
Featured photo credit: geralt via pixabay.com