Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean cyber crooks are taking a vacation. They’re always out there, looking for easy prey. And some of their easiest victims are those who aren’t password savvy.
Hopefully you’re not one of their targets. But if you use the same password for multiple accounts, or your passwords are extremely easy to figure out (like 123456), you just might fall into one of their traps. According to one estimate, more than 60 percent of people use the same username and password for all of their accounts.
There are several ways cyber thieves can gain access to your passwords. One of the most prevalent is when people use public computers or public Wi-Fi to conduct sensitive activity, such as banking transactions. Tech-savvy crooks know how to tap into these public pathways and detect your login information, and they can then use that information to drain your bank accounts or open up credit cards in your name.
Cyber security experts also warn against letting websites “remember” your login and password information. While it might be tempting so enable this feature so you don’t have to enter your login credentials every time you visit a website, doing so puts you and your accounts at risk.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from username and password theft:
- Use a password combination of upper case and lower case letters, mixed with numbers and symbols.
- Never share your passwords with anyone.
- Don’t use personal information for passwords, such as your birth date, Social Security number, nicknames, or names of your children or pets.
- Avoid short passwords. All of your passwords should be at least 8 characters long. The longer the password, the better, because lengthy ones are harder to crack.
- Change your passwords on a regular basis. Experts suggest doing so at least every couple of months, if not more frequently.
- Don’t write your passwords on a piece of paper and carry it around with you in your purse or wallet. If either gets lost or stolen, so do your passwords.
- Look into getting a “password manager” software program. These programs store your login information for all the websites you use and help you access those sites automatically. They encrypt your password database with a master password, which is then the only password you have to remember. Some password managers are free; others charge a fee.
- Restart your browsing session after using websites that require you to enter your user ID and password information.
- Password-protect your cell phone, computer, and tablet. Just remember not to use the same password for all of your devices, and make sure each individual password is tough to decipher.
Giving some extra thought to the passwords you choose, and being sure to update them regularly, can give you some much-needed protection against hackers and other online criminals.