Internet security is a vital concern for everyone. And the first line of defense for online users is having a strong password. For this National Password Day in 2019, make it difficult for others to gain access to your accounts.
If you use easy-to-guess passwords, you’re putting important information at risk…such as bank accounts or social media profiles.
Some of these hacks are the result of brute force attacks on a login screen.
What is National Change Your Password Day?
While it’s not a traditional holiday, National Password Day is more like a reminder to keep your login credentials safe and secure.
In 2019, it happens to fall on May 2nd.
Consider about 86% of passwords used online are considered “terrible” in terms of security. Of these, the most common “123456” is also the most used. This is like handing a stranger the key to your car. It’s only a matter of time before he or she guesses the correct automobile and drives away.
Because the need for better security grows with each passing year, you need to do what you can to limit the risk of being a victim.
If enough people share National Password Day 2019, especially on social media, then perhaps everyone can reduce the risk to online users.
Why is Changing Your Password Important?
According to Panda Security, about 52% of people will reuse their passwords across multiple websites and apps. If you’re one of those people, this means anyone getting your password has a good chance of logging into all of your accounts.
I know some people will think, “how could a hacker know what websites I visit?” Well, that’s an easy element to someone with technical skills. I mean, just looking at your browsing history can give a hacker an idea of what sites you visit.
Also keep in mind the effects of data breaches of the services you use. During a six-month period in 2018, there were more than 22 million records compromised online. Which means your password and other info could be already known by the criminal element.
Many of these problems are easily manageable as long as you change your password frequently enough. Perhaps one of the best ideas is by trying to make passwords as unhackable as possible.
How Often Should You Change Your Password?
Given the nature of how hackers gain your passwords in the first place, it’s always a good idea to change them frequently. But what is a good number without it seeming excessive?
About 40% of people will change their passwords three to five times a year. At most, that’s an average of once every two and a half months.
However, there is a slight problem when it comes to excessive password changes. The most notable is confusion. When you use a large number of websites or apps, it means you constantly have to re-remember new login credentials.
Unfortunately, there is no golden number for how often you should change passwords that is backed by quantifiable evidence. Until you notice a difference, perhaps once every six months may be enough.
Of course, this may also depend on the number of websites you use or apps installed on your phone.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Passwords Secure?
Every one understands the importance of a password. But not everyone knows how to go about making login credentials more difficult to gain access.
Here are my seven tips to change your password today and reduce your exposure to various online risks.
1. Use Two Factor Authentication when Possible
Two Factor Authentication, or 2FA, is an excellent method for protecting online accounts. This is when you have two separate devices to log into a single account.
You may see this in movies when a device scans fingerprints while requiring voice input. This is a form of 2FA, and it’s not as only restricted to science fiction movies.
For example, a common method of 2FA is a login username and password as well as a SMS text message to your phone for verification. In fact, a lot of companies use this platform to keep accounts secure.
The idea is that hackers may guess your login information but are less likely to have your phone when logging in. It’s one of the more secure methods of protecting online activity, even though it requires a few more seconds out of your day.
Two Factor Authentication can include using retina scans, pin codes, biometric data such as a thumb print and much more in addition to login credentials.
The best part about 2FA is that it doesn’t usually cost a lot to implement. In fact, you can install various free plugins for WordPress to install 2FA right now.
2. Make Passwords Complicated
The more complicated a password is, the more difficult it is for hackers and bots to “guess” it when trying to access accounts. In reality, many websites will ban access from users if they incorrectly guess too often.
One of the best ways to make passwords complicated is to use a series of randomly generated letters, numbers and symbols. Many online systems nowadays integrate a generator to create these “impossible” passwords.
Even though a lot of people don’t like using these because they are extremely difficult to memorize, they are often the most secure.
For instance, which do you think is the easiest to crack:
My point is using complicated passwords like the one I featured above make it incredibly difficult for hackers and bots to gain access. Sure it’s nearly impossible to remember, but it is exceptionally more secure.
If you’re worried about trying to remember a password like this, you can always keep it in a notebook. Just make sure your notebook is in a safe place and never in the same area as your computer or laptop.
I won’t tell you where my notebook is, but I can assure you, it’s nowhere near my office.
3. Change Passwords Often
Like I mentioned earlier, a regular routine of updating your passwords is ideal. This is because you never really know who might access your online accounts as you’re reading this post.
In many instances, hackers will simply browse your habits and record information from an online source. You might not even know someone has access until it’s too late.
Cycling the passwords every six to twelve months reduces the risks from unknown activity such as this. Even if you use highly complex passwords as I stated in the above point, it’s always a good idea to keep them fresh.
You may also want to consider the website or app.
If it’s something like a login for a free graphic design app, you probably wouldn’t care as much when compared to your stock portfolio. Which means you’re probably safe to only change those free accounts once a year or so.
Keep in mind the more often you change your passwords, the safer you’ll be in the long run. If you have to, set an alarm on your phone for future dates to remind you to change login credentials of certain sites and apps.
4. Consider a Password Manager
Password managers are apps that will store all of your passwords in a single digital locale. Some of the more advanced systems, such as LastPass, will even help create ultra-strong passwords to protect your logins.
How many of these systems work is through a browser extension you install to store login information. Then, with the help of the password manager, you can access your sites without worrying about remembering impossible login information.
A lot of password managers will go so far as to fill in the login information automatically for you.
As most of these systems use high-end data encryption, they are considered among the most secured systems on the Internet. Some, such as LastPass, will also include multifactor authentication to access your password “vault.”
The best part about some of the best password managers is the offer of a “free” version of the app. So, it literally only costs you a few moments of your day to try a password manager out for yourself.
Another key feature is how some will also span across multiple devices. So you can store your login information and access it instantly from smartphones, tablets or computer systems.
5. Don’t Fully Trust Your Browser
Web browsers like Chrome and Firefox will store your passwords across multiple devices. Any time you log into your browser with your account, you have access to your login credentials for all the websites you visit.
However, there are a few problems with this action:
- What if you leave your browser running and walk away from the device?
While some people are diligent about locking computers or other devices when not in use, what if you forget? Then anyone using that device has access to your online accounts thanks to the auto-fill feature.
- Browsers don’t require advanced passwords for sites.
With the exception of Google Chrome suggesting advanced passwords for new websites, most browsers don’t really bother with making you pick something more advanced.
- Many don’t enable Two Factor Authentication
Some browsers include mutlifactor authentication when logging into accounts for the first time on a new computer. This is a feature in Google Chrome, but it’s not always used correctly. For instance, you don’t need to “trust” ever computer you sit at.
Don’t get me wrong, a browser like Chrome or Firefox is awfully convenient when storing advanced passwords. However, it’s not always the best course of action depending on what you’re protecting.
6. Don’t Use Personal Information
Too many people will use something personal to help them remember a password. Some of the more common methods are birthdays, anniversaries or social security numbers. And these are among the first attempts from someone trying to hack an account.
When an online system such as WordPress requires a personal security question, use something that is less obvious. For example, something like your place of birth or paternal grandmother’s first name may be easily obtained from social media.
It’s not just your own social posts that can pose as a security leak, either. What if your security question was knowing your maternal grandfather’s first name? What if you never mention it in social media? Are you sure your siblings have never mentioned the name?
Not everyone realizes just how much information a hacker has access to from sites like Facebook. Using personal info in a password or other form of security may take longer to guess, but it’s still a threat to security.
If you’re trying to make the password easier to remember for yourself, use something that only you would know and never shared with anyone.
7. Never Use Just One Password
I pointed out above how using one password can make life difficult on yourself. But it’s something I want to reiterate considering the risks involved.
Some people get into the mindset of “one password to rule them all.” But instead of a golden ring being carried by a hobbit, it’s access to every account used on the Internet.
Create a separate password for every instance of a login whether it’s in a web browser or an app in your phone.
I know that it’s more of a pain, especially if you have hundreds of saved accounts online. In reality, though, it will save you from a great deal of misery should your password become compromised.
If you’re worried about trying to remember more than a thousand logins, that’s when something like a password manager makes life easier.
Don’t assume you’re not important enough to hack. Most criminals don’t care who their targets are as long as it’s an easy score. Using one password for every site you access only increases the risks of everything becoming compromised.
Make it Harder for Hackers
Keeping your passwords updated regularly improves online security. Whether it’s keeping people from guessing your credentials or protecting yourself in the event someone steals a website’s database, you want to keep your passwords fluid.
It’s better to use the most advanced login you can create rather than have your data compromised. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.