Protect Your Passwords to Protect Your Personal Data
It seems as though we hear about security breaches fairly regularly. They seem to be happening so often that I no longer want to pay attention when I hear about them. Unfortunately, that may be happening to many people. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle. But you can’t be complacent when it comes to your identity!
Sometimes personal data is compromized not because of what you do, but as a result of a security vulnerability at businesses that store it. Even if you’re careful, your information may still be at risk. So, only provide the minimum amount of information that is absolutely necessary to do business with them. And be aware of what information you provide to which businesses. This will help you recognize if you’re the victim of an attempted scam. Yes, your data is “out there,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part to protect it.
Do your best to guard your passwords and the information used to maintain them (and your accounts). Avoid those entertaining little quizzes – you know the ones that tell you what your children will look like, or how long you will live, or what kind of person you are? Do you really think nice people put them in front of you for free just for your enjoyment? Those fun little coffee breaks are designed to get specific information about you. It may be a legitimate business gathering general information for marketing purposes, or it may be research for hacking purposes. Think about it – when you answer questions like “What’s your favorite color?” or “What was your first pet’s name?” you may be providing answers to common security questions that you provide when you set up accounts. These little details may make it possible for someone else to change a password and lock you out of one of your accounts. I cringe when I see my friends and family post their results on Facebook, afraid of what details they might have provided to who-knows-who.
Here is a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to passwords.
- Change your passwords often – at least every 90 days.
- Use strong/complex passwords, with a minimum length of at least seven characters, using both numeric and alphabetic characters.
- Use a password manager or vault that encrypts your passwords.
- Be aware of all the accounts you have, and what information is in them.
- Use two-step authentication to sign in to your accounts. Using this method, a code is sent to your phone. Then you enter the code before you can sign in – even with the correct password.
- Use a different password for each account.
- Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Don’t provide personal information to strangers.
- Don’t share your password.
- Don’t provide information to businesses unless it’s necessary.
- Don’t use group, shared, or generic accounts and passwords.
- Don’t use a password that is the same as any of the last four passwords you have used.
Knowledge is power – as tiresome as it may be, listen to all of the reports you can about security breaches. That information may help you protect yourself against future threats. Watch your credit card balances, keep track of your credit report, and especially – protect your passwords.
If you have additional advice for keeping your personal information safe, please add it here.