Protecting your online privacy: your password matters

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Image courtesy of totumweb at Flickr.com

Our lives are spent increasingly online. We use social networks, e-mails, do searches and bank transactions. Computers and other electronic devices are becoming even faster receiving and processing data, like never before. This means that a huge amount of data is going on the internet. In the midst of all this information chaos, we want to have privacy and security for our personal and our financial data .

Authentication is required in order to prove your identity. The password is the way to authenticate your identity, and by the way, password selection is one of the main problems people are experiencing and the main cause your online security is compromised.

Let us go back to password basics.

A password is an unspaced sequence of characters, sometimes a secret word or a phrase to prove the legitimacy of your identity, and thus, giving you access to various internet accounts or gain entry to networks. The problems in password selection can be reduced to two main issues: password reuse and password predictability.

Password reuse is not a recommended practice. See, your privacy can only be as secure as the weakest website you visit. For example, while many websites you visit are trying hard to secure your information, there are some poorly configured websites that can be vulnerable to hackers. Your data can be exposed to them and since you like using your favorite password in all your other accounts, hackers will have figured out a way to access to all of your accounts as well.

The honest truth about this issue is that, when it comes to passwords, people can be uncreative, unimaginative and unoriginal. Simple words, perfect number sequences, very short common words, dates of birth are the order of the day. It is astonishing to know that independent people by being clueless about their privacy are using unintentionally the same passwords or password fragments. That is a critical problem that needs correction if you want to ensure online privacy.

Dual Factor Authentication, or as it is commonly abbreviated 2FA, is a great alternative offered by sites like Google accounts, Apple accounts, Microsoft accounts, most social media and some banks. The normal log-in procedure can be achieved by means of typing your username and password but by configuring your sites with 2FA you are going through an extra step that will increase your online security. This extra step could be a physical token or something memorized, such as a code; in other words, two pieces of information are required, both of them equally indispensable to access the website.

Here is an example. Let’s say you want to log on to a website. In addition to typing a password, you will also need to have possession of a cellphone, because a code available only for a limited period of time will be sent there. This code will have to be typed in to get access to the site.

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Image courtesy of Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta at Flickr.com

To sum all up, there must be an awareness of dangers online users can face if they are not proactive about the way they choose passwords. The suggestion is simple: start choosing passwords that are hard to guess. Here are some ideas.

  • Passwords can be stronger by increasing to a minimum 8 characters, combining letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Do not use words that can be found in dictionaries.
  • Preferably, keep your password for yourself. Any time you share password, the risk that it may fall in the wrong hands increases.
  • A great percentage of passwords are easily guessable. Therefore do not use names, middle names, phone numbers, birthdays, car license or ID numbers, superheroes or celebrities’ names. Please do not use the word “password” as your password, ever.
  • Vary your passwords. Do not use the same for all your accounts.
  • Change passwords frequently.
  • When thinking about a new password, there are useful links where you can check your password strength.
  • When you change your password, in order to remember it, write it on a piece of paper or a notebook, with no identifiable information next to it, and store it safely. While you will recognize that those are your passwords, other people will not understand what they are. They will think that is a list of random words.
  • Be especially careful when using public wifi. Even though is very convenient, our information can be vulnerable to hackers since they take advantage of these unsecure networks to access to passwords.

Remember, your password is your key to your online world. Guard it zealously as you would protect your own home.

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