by Michelle Ferris on Sep 27, 2016
If you're like most people these days, you use your computer, laptop, smartphone, or combination of the above quite regularly. Electronics like these are fantastic ways to communicate with one another, and wonderful for getting things like shopping, email, and taxes done in a fraction of the time. However, as with most technological advancements, there is a downside...
Your identity now exists, or is mirrored, online. You can access Facebook to talk to relatives and friends, and take care of your online banking at the same time. But what if your Facebook account gets hacked? And what if the password you use for Facebook is the same as the password you use for online banking, H&R Block, Amazon, Gmail, or a number of other sites?
In a heartbeat, your entire online presence could be raided.
Hacks happen. Even if you don't click on spammy ads or popups, or go to websites from suspicious emails, you can still end up with a hacked account.* Your account can become compromised even without you doing anything wrong. Sometimes information gets stolen from the company, such as happened with Walmart in late 2013.
You'd think it would be a simple thing, having different passwords for different accounts... Or having security questions that don't have obvious answers, as an obvious answer means a hacker can easily find it. However, most people tend to pick one or two simple passwords and stick with them. This behavior can be very dangerous. Is it something you have seen yourself doing?
You should be setting up different, complex passwords (at least 6 characters, upper and lower case letters, and include numbers and symbols where possible) for each website, or at least, for each type of account. Do not use hobbies, a family members name, birthdays, or any other obvious information. If it's your best guess, it's probably a hacker's best guess, too.
So how would you set up passwords? If you're REALLY good, you'd have a separate password for each site. But few people have that kind of memory. Instead, build sets of passwords depending on the type of website. Sites like Facebook would get one password. And email accounts would get another. Online banking passwords should only be used for online banking.
You may end up with a password set that looks like this:
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn: hack#z3ro
Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail: reed;rite/ha
Do not store these passwords in your email or any other hackable account. If you parked your car next to your truck, you wouldn't store the truck’s keys in your car’s glove box, would you? This is much the same concept, except driving away with your identity is a much bigger deal than someone stealing just your vehicle.
Many sites now ask you to answer security questions, in case you access your account in a remote location, or if you've forgotten your login or password. When you're writing the questions, do not enter the obvious answers. You should come up with something you can easily remember, but that no one else will likely know.
Your OLD questions and answers may look like this:
Q: Where does your nearest sibling live? // A: Florida
Q: What color was your first car? // A: Black
Q: What was your highschool mascot? // A: Wolverine
Anyone that grew up with you could probably answer all these questions about you. The information could be found on Classmates.com, in your year book, on Facebook, or by looking up government or school records. Poof. You're hacked. Instead, answer with more "random" answers:
Your NEW questions and answers would look more like this:
Q: Where does your nearest sibling live? // A: Virginia (location of the beach house where your family would take vacations when you were kids)
Q: What color was your first car? // A: Horse (your first car was a mustang - and no one would ever arbitrarily guess "horse" as a color)
Q: What was your highschool mascot? // A: Worm (you did a lot of fishing in high school)
You can still provide answers that make sense in the context of your life (as demonstrated above), but not so obvious that anyone could dig around in your Facebook or ask a few pointed questions and get the answers.
The only time it's too late to prevent your accounts from being hacked is after you've already been hacked. Prevent hackers from making a ruin of your life. Take fifteen minutes and change your passwords and security questions today, before it's too late.
* A little aside: NEVER login to your bank account from an email sent from your bank. These emails are often copied by phishers who will then steal your information. Go to your bank's website directly by entering the web address.
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