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Staying Safe on the Internet: Why all the Hullabaloo about Passwords?

Staying Safe on the Internet: Why all the Hullabaloo about Passwords?
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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.

The Stats

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    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.

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    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

    Small Password Story

      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.

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      1. Come up with a Strong Password

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        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

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          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.

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          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

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            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.

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            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

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            Vikas Agrawal

            Vikas is the co-founder of Infobrandz, an Infographic design agency that offers creative visual content solutions to medium to large companies.

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            Last Updated on July 21, 2021

            The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

            The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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            No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

            Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

            Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

            A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

            Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

            In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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            From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

            A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

            For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

            This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

            The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

            That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

            Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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            The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

            Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

            But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

            The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

            The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

            A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

            For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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            But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

            If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

            For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

            These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

            For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

            How to Make a Reminder Works for You

            Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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            Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

            Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

            My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

            Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

            I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

            More on Building Habits

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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            Reference

            [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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