In 2016, a popular search engine experienced a massive data hack. Because of that, billions of user accounts were compromised. The incident was in addition to another similar data breach that happened in 2014, which affected more than 500 million users.
Considering all the user accounts that were affected by the data breaches in both years, it is quite alarming how those unexpected incidents have affected millions of lives. While the effects were not felt physically, the data breaches sure did leave an impact in the online realm.
You see, most of these data breaches happen because of one common reason: duplicate and compromised passwords. Computer and mobile users reuse passwords on different websites, not knowing the risk involved in using the same password.
Well, there’s nobody to blame. After all, we are only humans. We can’t always remember the 20 password combinations we use to log in to our email accounts, banks, social media profiles, and even app stores. Although some users get pass through password problems by using the same password on every site or service they use, the truth is, they are not actually solving the problem.
Don’t worry, though. In this article, we’ll help you understand why you shouldn’t use the same password and what will possibly happen if you fall into that bad habit. We will also share with you some services and apps you can use to create, manage, or remember your passwords and valuable information.
Why You Shouldn’t Use the Same Password
Years ago or even recently, you created a password that you can easily remember. However, you begin receiving alerts that your password is not that strong. So, you create a new password that has 12 characters, have capital letters, and have symbols. The only problem is: you use the same password for all your different accounts.
You might be asking, “It’s a strong and unique password, what’s wrong with it?” Well, here’s what you should know. Hackers don’t really try to force their way into your account by simply figuring out your password. While brutal force attacks occur, hackers have other ways to gain your login details.
One method they use to access your login information is to break into a website’s server and steal user information. When they do that, they take your usernames and passwords, along with everyone else’s. Then, they share or sell them to the black market.
Another method they use to gain your login credentials is through phishing. A hacker will usually send you an email that looks like from a legit site, asking you to reset your login credentials. You click it and you are directed to a website where you are asked to enter your username and password. After you enter your login details, nothing usually happens, but you don’t know that hackers already have access to your account. They can log in to your account on your behalf and take advantage of whatever they can find there.
To avoid these instances, you have to use different passwords for all your accounts. Once hackers obtain your login credentials, they will try to use the same details on major websites. You don’t want that to happen, right?
How to Avoid Password Reuse
If you are guilty of reusing the same passwords across your multiple accounts, don’t worry. You still have time to work on them. Make real changes in all your online accounts. Here’s how:
Use a password management app.
A password manager is technically an app that allows you to secure, retrieve and store the login credentials you use to access apps, networks, and services. It can be accessed directly from a web browser or can be installed on a mobile device. To access all stored data in a password management app, you only need to use a master password.
Password management apps are very easy to set up. And the best thing about them is that when you enter a new username or password for a website, they will notice it and automatically save that information for you. They can also give strong password suggestions, making it easy for you to avoid password reuse incidents.
Here are some of the best password manager apps today:
- 1Password – Developed by AgileBits, 1Password is widely used to store encrypted passwords and offers monitoring and synchronization services through an optional cloud service, such as Dropbox.
One of the best features of this password manager app is it offers a family account that allows users to selectively share passwords with other members. Each member can manage and create their own password vaults and accounts in addition to having access to shared vaults.
If you want to get started with using 1Password, know that you have several options. A basic 1Password account costs around $2.99, while a family account costs $4.99 a month, and it can cater up to 5 users.
- Dashlane – Another popular password manager, Dashlane, stores passwords in a database and offers synchronization services across devices.
If you use Dashlane, you need to keep your master password. The developers stated that they are unable to recover your password in the event of loss. Not a problem, though. You can access your account through two-factor authentication, which we will discuss further below.
For Dashlane users, you have two account options. The free account lets you store and manage up to 50 passwords through one device of your choice. The premium account, on the other hand, which costs $4.99 per month, allows you to synchronize your passwords across different devices and performs regular account backups.
- KeePass – KeePass is a free password management app for MacOS, Linux, and Windows. Among the perks of using this app are comprehensive language support, a diverse plug-in ecosystem, and ports to different client operating systems.
This app was originally designed as a password vault, but throughout the years, more features have been introduced, such as the ability to share a database and to keep multiple databases.
If you are concerned about your password vault’s security with KeePass, you will be happy to know that this app supports different authentication methods. You can lock database files, using password combinations, a Windows user account, and a key file.
- LastPass – One of the most popular password manager apps today, LastPass supports a multitude of mobile platforms. Unlike other password manager apps, it uses its own cloud service to keep user information and synchronize data.
LastPass offers two different pricing tiers for their users: free and premium, which costs $2 per month. The free version offers you the basic functions you would expect from other cloud-based password manager apps. The premium version offers users the ability to share login credentials with other family members.
Additionally, this password manager supports two-factor authentication. So, in the event of an authentication attempt, you can easily confirm the authentication request via your registered mobile device.
Change the passwords you use to access your accounts.
This will definitely take time and require patience, but you have to consider this tip if you wish to be protected online.
Save your new login and password combinations in your password management app.
Again, this may sound like a lot of work, but most password managers already include a browser plugin feature that is programmed to recognize newly created login credentials. It will automatically prompt you to store the information and give it a name. It will even remember the website you are currently on, so the next time you visit the website, it’ll have your login credentials ready.
Be sure you don’t have any duplicate passwords.
After changing all your passwords, scan your password manager to make sure you haven’t used the same password in two different websites. Although most password managers already have the ability to check if there are similar password combinations, it pays to perform manual checks.
Continue creating unique passwords.
We’ll keep on stressing this. Create unique passwords only. Avoid creating duplicates.
Other Ways to Secure Your Passwords
You already know why you should not use the same password across multiple sites, but is there anything else you can do to secure your passwords? The answer is yes. Below are some other ways to keep your passwords secure:
- Be sure nobody is watching you while you are entering or creating a password.
- Make it a habit to check if you have logged off or shut down your computer or mobile device before you leave it unattended.
- Install and use security software and tools on your computer. If possible, scan for keyloggers on a regular basis.
- If possible, do not log in to your accounts if you are using a shared computer. This tip is especially handy if you are fond of using the computers at internet cafes or libraries.
- Do not enter your passwords if you are connected to an unsecured network. These networks are often found at airports or coffee shops in the form of hotspots.
- If there is a need to use an unsecure WiFi network, use a VPN app. Doing so will secure the information you send or receive.
- Change your passwords regularly. Of course, you have already taken measures to protect your passwords, but you can never tell when a data breach happens.
- Always create a strong password. It should have at least 12 characters, both numbers and symbols if allowed.
- To create a password that you can easily remember, you may create a shape on your keyboard. For instance, you can create an imaginary “V” shape on your keyword and have the password combination “#3eFvGy7&”.
- If you do not use your own computer when creating passwords, make sure you update them as soon as you get your own password manager app.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
One of the best methods available to protect online accounts from being hacked is two-factor authentication. Accounts that use this technology require two things to grant access to your accounts: your account password and a device like a smartphone.
Here’s how two-factor authentication works. When you sign into your account, you will be prompted to authenticate with a password and a username. That is the first layer of verification. Next, you need to reconfirm your identity to reduce fraud risks. This is when the need to use your smartphones comes in.
To confirm your identity, there will be a number code shown on your computer screen. On your smartphone, you will be asked to enter the number code. And that’s it! Two-factor authentication should be more than enough to keep the bad guys away.
If you have accounts in any of these services, you should consider using two-factor authentication:
- Online Shopping (Amazon, eBay, PayPal)
- Online Banking
- Email Services (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo)
- Cloud Storage Services
- Social Media Accounts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest)
- Productivity Apps (Trello, Evernote)
- Communication Apps (Skype, Slack)
- Password Managers (LastPass)
Other Not-So-Obvious Password Protection Tips
We’ve got some not-so-obvious tips you can use to further secure your passwords. These are:
- When creating a password, you can use a passphrase that has 15 characters. This will help protect your account, especially if the site administrator does not enable hashing algorithms.
- Do not let browsers store your passphrases because not all browsers protect your login credentials in a secure fashion.
- Finally, do not configure your computer to automatically log you on a website. If you have configured your system for auto-login, Windows may actually keep your passphrase in pure text. This mistake can be used by hackers to access your system and steal your passphrase.
- Take advantage of the PC repair ability to find weak passwords.
The online realm continues to become a very dangerous place to play and work. So, you need to take adequate measures to ensure the bad guys can’t access your personal or business information. As we’ve said, you can make it hard for them to do bad things by embracing simple practices that will offer you another level of protection.
If you really want to stay safe, take our tips to heart and reconsider the way you use your details online. In addition, you may want to download and install Outbyte PC Repair. Aside from helping keep your computer performing at its best, this tool eliminates traces of all your activities and protects your sensitive personal information, too! So, it’s really worth using.