Four tips for secure online accounts
Four Tips For Secure Online Accounts. When a malicious hacker gets a password to one account, it's often a stepping stone to a more serious breach,...
Here are some tips to help you secure your online accounts
1. One thing leads to another
When a malicious hacker gets a password to one account, it's often a stepping stone to a more serious breach, especially because many people use the same passwords on multiple accounts. So if someone breaks into your Facebook account, that person might try the same password on your banking or Amazon account. Suddenly, it's not just about fake messages being posted to your social media accounts. It's about your hard-earned money. It's particularly bad if the compromised password is for an email account. That's because when you click on a link on a site saying you've forgotten your password, the service will typically send a reset message by email. People who are able to break into your email account, therefore, can use it to create their own passwords for all sorts of accounts. You'll be locked out as they shop and spend, courtesy of you.
If the compromised password is one you use for work, someone can use it to break in to your employer's network, where there are files with trade secrets or customers' credit card numbers.
2. Better passwords
Many breaches occur because passwords are too easy to guess. There's no evidence that guessing was how these 2 million accounts got compromised, but it's still a good reminder to strengthen your passwords. Researchers at security company Trustwave analysed the passwords compromised and found that only 5 percent were excellent and 17 percent were good. The rest were moderate or worse.
l Use combinations of letters and numbers, upper and lower case and symbols such as the exclamation mark. Try to vary it as much as you can. "My!PaSsWoRd-32" is far better than "mypassword32."
l Avoid words that are in dictionaries, and also easy-to-guess words which are not on dictionaries, as there are programs that can crack passwords by going through databases of known words. One trick is to think of a sentence and use just the first letter of each word - as in "tqbfjotld" for "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
l Avoid your name, company name or hometown, for instance. Avoid pets and relatives' names, too.
3. A second layer
Many services offer a second level of authentication when you're accessing them from a computer or device for the first time. These services will send you a text message to a phone number on file, for instance. The text message contains a code that you need in addition to your password. The idea is that a hacker may have your password, but won't have ready access to your phone.
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are among the services offering this dual authentication. In most cases, you won't be asked for this second code when you return to a computer you've used before, but be sure to decline that option if you're in a public place such as a library or Internet cafe.
4. One final thought
Change your passwords regularly. Make sure your computer is running the latest software, as older versions can have flaws that hackers have been known to exploit. Be careful when clicking on email attachments, as they may contain malicious software for stealing passwords.