Why Most People’s Passwords Aren’t Clever or Safe

Tips & how-to

The recent Snapchat data breach, which resulted in 4.6 million users’ usernames and telephone numbers being leaked, is a reminder that everyone’s information is vulnerable. Many accounts are linked to each other as well, which makes it easier for us – and for hackers. A security breach in one account can have a domino effect, as one man found out the hard way. Follow these tips in order to improve your security and to reduce the chance that your personal information or data are compromised.

Select Smart Usernames and Passwords

Don’t use any personal information in your usernames or passwords. Don’t use any part of your real name in your username or password. Don’t use your birth year, graduation year, or age. Don’t use your child’s name or date of birth, either.

Don’t use the same username and password for multiple accounts. This is the hard part, creating and keeping track of dozens upon dozens of unique login combos. You can use a password generator to make them, but they might be hard to remember. You can use a password manager, but remember that you’re relying on their security and trusting that their data won’t be compromised. Instead, try coming up with your own system to create and remember unique logins site by site, by creating a coded password first and then adding site-specific identifying information on the end of it. If you’re worried you’ll forget, write your passwords down on a piece of paper rather than storing them on your computer.

Change your passwords regularly. As if coming up with them wasn’t hard enough, it’s recommended that for the best security, you change your passwords on a monthly basis. You might choose to do this only for select accounts, such as those linked to your credit cards and bank accounts.

Don’t use the same password that everyone else is using. This list of the top 100 Adobe passwords contains “adobe” and “photoshop” as well as perennial favorites like “password” and “123456.” You don’t need to be told that these are extremely weak; if you have accounts with passwords like this, change them immediately.

Don’t make your password hint your actual password. Yes, some people really do this. Don’t be one of them.

Follow Basic Computer Safety Protocol

Back up your data regularly. If your personal computer is hacked and your information is compromised or deleted, you will have copies. Back it up on an external hard drive and store that away from your computer. You can also consider cloud backup, but again, you’ll have to rely on the security of the system you choose.

Install updates ASAP. It can be annoying to stop your workflow to install updates and restart your computer, but it’s worth it. Updates will improve your security, so install them regularly, especially for your browsers and operating system.

Install firewalls and other security software. Firewalls, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware software will provide multiple layers of security, making it harder for hackers to access your data. You can set your security software to update automatically.

Don’t download or open anything suspicious. Don’t open spam email, and if you do, definitely don’t download or open attachments. Don’t download and open anything from the internet unless you are 100% confident that it is safe and that it comes from a trusted source.

Increase Security Even More

Opt in to 2-step verification processes. Google and other sites offer this, which is also called 2-step authentication. When you log in to a site, you must go through two steps. For instance, you might have to enter a code that you receive via text to your cell phone to verify that it is really you before logging in regularly.

Delete some accounts entirely. No, you don’t have to delete Facebook. But what about MySpace, or other accounts you haven’t logged in to for years? Close them down. They might be the accounts most likely to have “123456” as a password anyway.

Disconnect from the internet. Remember, if you’re not connected to anyone else, they can’t get to your data. Think of it as abstinence for the digital age.