Let’s talk about passwords. I know, I know—shhhh! We’re not supposed to discuss passwords! We’re supposed to come up with one really fun password, use it for every site, and only tell our girlfriend or boyfriend what it is—you know, just in case they need something from our account, or to watch our Netflix. And maybe our brother, because we’re letting him use our Netflix, too, so that he won’t tell mom and dad that we sneaked out last Saturday. But other than that, it’s totally secure! Right?
Well, that’s actually not right at all.
It seems like most users are divided. There are users who are incredibly thorough with their passwords, and there are users who are very casual about their passwords. I’m here to tell you, that if you fall on the “casual” side of the line, it’s time to step up your game.
Perhaps fifteen years ago, one password for every site would do the job just fine, especially if it were a strong password. Besides, who has the time to memorize twenty different passwords? You’ve got a busy life! It’s hard enough not to mix up your kids’ names, and now you’ve got to keep your passwords straight? It’s hard, but in 2019, you should be thinking more strategically about your online security. How devastated would you be if someone logged into your Facebook account and sabotaged your Farmville game? (Do people still play Farmville?)
I jest, but look at it this way: no matter how strong your password is, if someone knows something as basic as your email, and if a hacker gets ahold of that one password, they essentially have access to your entire online life. Think about all the power you hold over your own life online; you do online banking, you have your credit card info saved on Amazon, you post on Facebook on behalf of your company… And if someone got ahold of your Google account, they could really do some damage. All that, not to mention security cameras!
A family in Illinois found this out the hard way, when just last month, a hacker breached their Google Nest security cameras and thermostat. Arjun Sud, a father and husband, had several Nest devices set up around his home; one evening, after hearing a male’s voice in his infant child’s bedroom, he discovered that a hacker had jacked up the thermostat to a dangerous 90 degrees in his house! Sud was terrified; how long had the hacker been listening in to his private conversations?
Sud felt the blame lay with Google, and Google responded that his Nest had been compromised because Sud’s personal password and information had been breached from another non-Google website. In an effort to prevent this from happening to other users, Google also made a statement encouraging its Nest users to use 2-factor authentication, which involves a password and special code.
If that isn’t reason enough to change up your password between accounts, then perhaps you have a “thing” for danger. But there are other ways to live on the edge, and skydiving can potentially be a lot safer than using “Fido123” as your password across every online platform, including your email account.
So, what makes a strong password? Sadly, although Fido is so so cute, using your pet’s name and your favorite number are not going to cut it. There are hackers with computers specifically dedicated to decoding people’s passwords, and if someone has access to any personal information about you, such as the number of your street address, they might have a leg up on cracking your password.
Don’t use words in your password, such as “Greg” or “dog” or “Booklover.” Use special characters liberally, and random numbers that don’t resemble common information about you. For example, “Ko#89HrP” is a much stronger password than “Hello2019” or “iloveSergio.” (Your undying love for Sergio is unfortunately not strong enough to fight off hackers.) It’s certainly not as easy to remember, but you can opt for tools such as a password manager, which will generate random passwords and store them for you. (Just make sure you are choosing a secure password manager—any of the prominent name brand ones should do the trick just fine.) And for the love of Sergio, please change up your password for each different account you make.
Think of if you had only one copy of a key that fit your house, garage, car, work, and gym locker. (We all know you haven’t been to the gym in months, much less even used your gym locker, but it’s still supposed to be private and just for you.) If you lost that key, or if someone stole that key, you’d have to do a lot of damage control. Don’t set yourself up to get hacked!
With that being said, I will now post this and log out of my account, and maybe change a couple of my other passwords, because, just like you, every day I’m learning how to be a more intelligent online user.