Looking back over the past 20 years (I’m writing this in 2014), the use of systems and passwords has become an unwanted but inevitable requirement in our daily lives. We always require you to stay abreast of many forms and layers of online protection of our sensitive data. Some examples where you need to use passwords, passphrases, identifiable pictures etc. They are banking, schools, credit cards, email, job login, job hunting, kids accounts, entertainment, communications, and more. As for the number, all these requirements are increasing and as for the complication, they are becoming more and more complicated to use and manage.
20 years ago, I only had two account passwords that I had to manage. An email and a bank account. Today I manage over 200 security memory chips online for me and my family too! (Wow writing this makes me feel safe! Really..?)
Again, 20 years ago I could enter 6 letters or numbers and it was considered a safe and secure password. Today I have to use lowercase and uppercase alphabets, numbers and special characters with strength indicators showing the strength of the password as we are typing it to figure out how strong and secure the password is (in case there is a cyber crime to crack down the passwords .) Many companies won’t let me use parts of my name in the password. So I have to associate my account with an image and keep the image in mind. Also I have to answer some security questions (typically 3 to 5). To add even more, I occasionally have to associate and confirm my account with a mobile number! Then there is a separate 4-digit pin for bank ATMs, etc. Even my answering machine has a 6 digit access code!
Let’s talk complexity! Talk about memorization!
Is technology useful for protecting our sensitive data? YES! Has technology complicated the problem and pushed us much more to manage in terms of passwords, security, etc.? YES!
So how to handle these complications. Here are some do’s and don’ts.
What to do
1. Use long and complex passwords.
2. Generate and use random passwords yourself.
3. Keep your passwords in a safe and isolated file. Write if you want. Even better is to spend some money to have a dedicated drive, USB etc.
4. Use limited login attempts to all permitted institutions. It basically means that after 3 or 2 or 4 (whatever number you set) unsuccessful login attempts, your account will automatically be disabled and you will have to go personally or call to prove your ID and then reset your account. It sounds annoying at first, but it’s a great tool for protecting your identity in the long run.
5. Answer security questions in a non-traditional way. Example; First dog’s name. Traditional answer: whiskey. Non-traditional answer: Ihadnodog.
6. Always keep your current backup off your computer, for example on a USB drive.
7. Many experts suggest using copy+paste rather than typing in web forms, so follow it when you log in.
8. Have a really strong master password for any file you might use to store and protect your sensitive information like passwords, security questions, etc.
9. Change your passwords often. Update your record if you manage it.
10. Always have a working antivirus program installed. Run the program every few days in manual mode.
11. Delete accounts you no longer need.
What not to do
1. Do not use any online system to save and protect your data. It could be Chrome or Internet Explorer causing you to “remember” your login information. It could be a service provider tool like Norton Security. I personally call it a third party addiction and it can limit, corrupt or disintegrate at any time. Your passwords and other information are lost without any backup in this case and in the worst case everything can now be available to someone else as well.
2. Never use the same password for more than one login wallet.
3. Do not use easily guessable passwords such as: abc123, 123ABC, 0123456789, XYZ etc. Cybercriminal computers attack through the Internet and try thousands of password combinations in one minute. They can easily guess your easy passwords and access your account. The damage can take a long time to fix in this case!.
4. Do not use a computer to generate random passwords.
5. Do not give access to unknown apps through social media.
6. Avoid using public computers in libraries, schools, restaurants, hotels, etc. If you must use it, uncheck the “remember me” option before logging in and clear everything after use such as cookies, history, etc. Make sure you are authorized to delete it and that you are not violating any public institution policy.
7. Sharing a password is generally prohibited, so don’t share your passwords.
Setting up and managing according to these guidelines will help you protect your accounts and data security for a long time.