Are you using the same password or email for all of your online accounts? It’s understandable if you are, given the increasing number of online account we’re expected to manage today. However, in today’s digital world nearly everything is online, and it’s your responsibility to protect your likeness, personal information and financial accounts from cyber criminals. In order to protect this information, it’s essential to use both unique and strong passwords for important accounts, as well as a separate email account to register and manage accounts when possible.

It’s best practice to use a unique and strong password for all personal accounts, but the most important accounts to protect are your email and any finance- or health-related online account. Using the same password for multiple accounts puts you and your information at risk. Similarly, you’re putting your finances at risk if your bank account, or other finance-related sites, are associated with the same email address you are using for social media and other websites. Using unique and strong passwords, along with a restricted email account, can help prevent hackers from quickly gaining access to your bank, credit card, and retirement accounts.

how hackers gain access to your account infographic

Here’s one example of how a hacker could gain access to your online accounts:

  • You are using the same email address to register all of your online accounts (i.e. social media, bank, credit card, and retirement accounts).
  • A hacker gains access to your email account and is able to quickly identify where you bank, what credit cards you have, and where your retirement accounts are managed.
  • The hacker attempts to log on to your online accounts using the password he already knows. Would he be successful, or are you using unique passwords?
  • After a number of failed log on attempts the hacker is prompted to reset your password by emailing a temporary ‘Password Reset’ link to the registered email account. Or, he could easily click on the “Forgot Your Password” link and have the link emailed to the registered email account. Guess what? The hacker already has access to your email account.
  • The hacker clicks on the link, resets your password and deletes the email so you’re not aware of the change.
  • The hacker now has full access to your online account.

Sounds scary, right? Unfortunately, hackers can move quickly once they have access to your information. To limit the hacker’s chances of being caught, the attack will likely take place when you’re least expecting it. This is just one example of why you need a strong password, but there are many more.

How to create a strong password

  • Password length: Use a minimum of 12 characters; the longer the password, the better.
  • Complexity: Use capital letters, lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers.
  • Don’t use full words or names in your password (i.e. Happy21, Shannon1982).
  • Don’t rely on substitutions to replace letters with numbers or symbols to try to pad dictionary words (i.e. H@ppyB1rthday).
  • Use a phrase that’s easy to remember, and create your own algorithm to encrypt the phrase. For example: Your personal algorithm may be to use the first two letters of each word in your phrase with the first letter being capitalized for each word, replacing words with symbols and numbers when possible, such as:
    • Phrase: Follow The Yellow Brick Road To Get Money
      • Password: FoThYeBrRo2Ge$
    • Phrase: Family Of Three and Living Healthy Too!
      • Password: FaOfTh&LiHe2!
    • Check your password strength and learn more password tips.

In closing, you may be wondering how you’re going to manage all these passwords. There are plenty of inexpensive password managers online, which you can use to manage not only your passwords, but also your bookmarks to secure websites.

If you have questions about creating a more secure digital lifestyle, browse our other Security articles, or contact me directly to learn more.