Passwords are like fortress gatekeepers that control who accesses internet data—they are front-line defenders against mounting cyber-attacks. Passwords also help block your online accounts from invading hackers looking to seize your private data. Without strong passwords, your accounts are vulnerable, and hackers can have a field day ransacking your most confidential information.
Gone are the days of easy passwords like "12345." Hackers are mighty foes you can't ignore or underestimate. Newly released Federal Trade Commission data shows that consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, an increase of more than 3% over the previous year. Beefing up your security protocol is imperative to protect your online accounts.
Here are eight internet security tips for choosing hack-proof passwords.
Diversify Your Online Passwords
Repeatedly using the same password puts you at risk. Once you're hacked, cybercriminals can gain entry to every account with that password. In 2019, Google warned that 65% of internet users have the same password for multiple accounts. Bolster your security by picking different passwords for every personal and professional account. Each password-locked account demands its own unique key code.
Choose Creative Password Combos
Secure passwords are complex and alphanumeric. It's harder for hackers to guess random combinations of letters and numbers. Sewing together nonsense strings of letters and digits is best. Avoid using common words, such as "shopping" or "beach." Instead, mash passwords into soup like "j28ml45sw9." Blend lowercase and capitalized letters to make it even more challenging. If allowed by the website, add symbols too. Haphazardly placed punctuation, including # and & symbols, can help.
Keep Passwords Impersonal
In today's digital age, so much of our private information is public online. A quick social media search could reveal your birthday, hometown, age, and family names. You likely love posting about your lovable pet on Instagram. Therefore, making that pet's name a password could be a recipe for disaster. Picking personalized passwords is an invitation for cybercriminals to hack you. The less connection a password has to your life, the more hack-proof it is.
Remember That Bigger is Better
Size does matter when it comes to internet passwords. Imagine you've set your password as "cat." No offense to feline fanatics, but this password is extremely weak. Even a beginner hacker could guess that password in seconds. Simply typing in popular three-letter words would crack the account open. Safeguard your online data with much longer passwords. The recommended password length is 10-18 characters. Lengthy passwords make an identity thief's task harder.
Scrap Stale Online Passwords
For internet security, passwords should have an expiration date. Keeping the same password long-term isn't safe. Hackers who've cracked your passcode will get free reign to return. Cybercriminals could read your emails or monitor your credit card activity daily. Keep them from becoming digital squatters in your accounts. Change your passwords every three months like clockwork. If you receive a breach alert, pick a fresh password immediately. Also, ensure that old and new passwords are entirely different.
Classify Your Passwords as Top Secret
Many people share passwords to accounts like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Co-workers often share the same password to access internet software. Yet, you never know when your sharing circle will get an uninvited member. Break this bad internet security habit by keeping your passwords secret, and don't share them with anyone. Avoid typing in passwords when others are in plain sight. Keep written passwords in a safe, locked place. Hide typed password lists in secure files with obscure names.
Select Two-Factor Authentication
More websites are now offering two-factor authentication. Choosing 2FA Two-factor authentications adds another step to the sign-in process. After typing in your password, you'll need to confirm your identity. The website will send a verification code to your email or via text. Next, you'll input the random digits to gain account access. Implementing 2FA security reduces the chance of hackers logging in as you.
Only Visit Encrypted Websites
Even the strongest passwords are defenseless on unencrypted websites. Hackers can invade your network and seize passwords for recently visited accounts. Poorly coded websites with little encryption are a hacker's dream come true. Therefore, be cautious about which sites you're logging into. Double-check that the URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP. Download security software that triggers a warning about unsafe websites. Keep your operating system and browser updated to fix security bugs too.
How can you remember all these ultra-unique passwords? The human brain isn't capable of remembering long and strong passwords for dozens of accounts. So what is the best solution? Use password manager software. Top password manager apps, including Dashlane, Keeper, LastPass, and Bitwarden, safely store your login credentials. Some offer free random password generator tools to really confuse hackers. Following these internet security tips to pick hack-proof passwords will ensure your accounts are protected.
Resources: Balancepro.org, cyber.org, FTC.gov.