Last week brought us the story of a Russian cybergang that hacked into the ownership of 1.2 billion usernames and passwords. Last week also presented me with the most obvious demonstration of aloofness to how people view their personal information. We did an interview with a local news station about the breach and what people can do to protect themselves should they be one of those unfortunates whose username and password had been commandeered. Once the piece had been posted, I shared it to my personal Facebook page.
While I usually keep my work and personal online lives separate, I knew this was a big story and a lot of people would be concerned. They weren’t. On average, I will get anywhere from 10-50 people “liking” my posts on my personal Facebook page. (For example, it is not unheard of for me to login and find out that there is an in-depth conversation taking place in the form of comments on a picture of my dog.) So I assumed that people would immediately start asking questions and sharing this incredibly helpful information with their friends. This was not the case. The most important and helpful thing I had posted in months for my personal Facebook community got one like and not one comment.
Now, I understand that when we start in on tech terms like “double-factor authentication” or “the importance of updating patches” some people will tune out. However, this was not a technical piece. It was a piece with a very simple goal, which was to get people to change their passwords in order to render the information the hackers had gotten useless. Even with the tantalizing twist of the involvement of a Russian cybergang and numbers in the billions, people were still not as interested as they would have been in the latest cat video I had found and posted.
Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to tell anyone who will listen that while a cat video may bring you a smile and give you a minute of warm fuzzies, changing your password can bring you the peace of mind that your money has a better chance of being in your bank account the next time you need it.
Of course, changing your passwords and using good password techniques is not going to eliminate your risk of becoming an identity theft victim or having your accounts taken over. There are many additional steps that people (and companies) should take to fully protect themselves. In fact, some have even said that the password is going to become obsolete in the near future. However, I am trying to make a very basic point here that no matter what your level of technological know-how, YOU can do something to protect yourself.
So just how technologically savvy do you need to be to take one of the strongest measures available to protect your personal information? Well, let’s just say I would bet money that you can do it.
3 Simple Steps
Here are 3 simple steps to help make sure your passwords are doing their job of keeping your accounts safe to the best of their abilities:
- Create a password with at least eight letters; the longer the password, the better your protection against hackers. Make sure it also contains a number and symbols to thwart hackers. Often, cybercriminals will use a software program that will run through password possibilities at lightning speed. Eventually, they will crack your password, but the more complex and lengthy the password the longer it will take, which just may save you from being hacked.
- Change your passwords periodically. At the very least, be sure you change your passwords every 90 days. As mentioned above, if your password is compromised, just changing your password will render the information hackers have virtually useless. In addition, never check boxes on your financial websites that allow you to store the password.
- Avoid the temptation to use the same password on multiple sites, no matter how easy and safe it seems. After all, if a hacker steals your Gmail password and it’s also your password to online bank accounts, it won’t take long for the hacker to access all of your financial accounts as well.