Nothing can be more financially horrifying than waking up to discover that your bank account was hacked, or your online store card has been cloned and your payments intercepted. Just the mere thought gives us chills.
With the increase in online transactions and activities— especially during the holidays— hacking seems to be a thriving business leaving its victims penniless and violated.
According to McAfee, cyber hackers prey on those who set their password and never change it because it makes their job easier. The hackers revealed that many online users have poor security and are easily infiltrated because they choose simple and easy-to-remember passwords that they often use for multiple accounts.
“Apple recently reported that cyberattacks were up 20% in 2023 and are only expected to increase each year,” Stephanie Humprey, a technology and lifestyle expert informs us. “Changing your passwords every 90 days is one small thing people can do to protect themselves against hackers or when larger corporations have data breaches.”
In sync with Change Your Password Day (February 1st), recognized by Matt Buchanan in 2012, Humphrey is giving us all the deets we need to keep our accounts as safe and secure as possible in the new year.
Creating Strong And Unique Passwords
When an individual is hacked (as opposed to a corporate data breach), it’s usually because the hacker was able to guess a password based on that person’s personal information. “When your password contains parts of your kids’/pet’s names, your middle name, or other easily identifiable information, it takes no time at all for a hacker to run through the various combinations to figure out your password,” Humphrey tells us. “Strong, unique passwords help to make it more difficult to guess through brute force methods.”
Create Multiple Passwords
If you’ve reused a password across multiple accounts, all the information in all of those accounts becomes compromised in the event of a data breach. “If your Instagram gets hacked, hackers may now have access to all your social media accounts,” Humphrey reminds us. “Same if your bank gets hacked. This could mean that your credit card information is at risk as well,” Humphrey shares.
Humphrey suggests creating different passwords for each account.
Hack Resistant Passwords
While nothing is guaranteed, Humphrey does suggest that your passwords be at least 10-15 characters long. She also suggests using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Some recommendations include using phrases combined with numbers and symbols to make them easier for you to remember but difficult for hackers.
Other Cybersecurity Measures
Humprey highly recommends enabling two-factor authentication as a critical cybersecurity step that everyone should be taking. “Two-factor authentication (or 2FA), is when you add a recovery method to an account so if you need to access the account for any reason an extra step is added in the process.”
For example, you might have to enter a code you get through text message or email to log in to your account for the first time on a new device.
Keep Track Of Multiple Passwords Without Compromising Security
“I am a huge proponent of using a password manager,” Humphrey tells us. “Password managers store multiple passwords securely. They will also remind you when it’s time to update any passwords and suggest strong passwords to use as well.”
Humphrey recommends 1password as a go-to password manager. “You typically only have to remember one master password— which should be unique and strong—and the password manager does the rest,” she explains, adding that Bitwarden and Dashlane are other good password managers.
She also suggests trying Apple’s Keychain if you have Apple devices but notes it has limited features.
Fingerprints and Facial Recognition
Passkeys are the latest technological attempt at doing away with passwords. They work in conjunction with biometric authentication and are stored on the device to make them more secure.
“This and other methods of authentication will eventually become mainstream, but it’s going to take a few years for everyone to fully adopt the new technology,” says Humphrey. She believes that passwords won’t be going away anytime soon, however adding biometric authentication to an account, along with a password is a good extra step to secure your data.
Overall digital security is never an inconvenience. Just think about it. It’s a lot more inconvenient to have to close accounts and monitor credit reports for fraudulent activity than it is to take a couple of extra steps to stay safe online.
Humphrey adds, “Remember, two-factor authentication typically takes less than 60 seconds extra in the login process and password managers will usually autofill login info for you. It’s a minor ‘inconvenience’ that is worth it in the long run.”