In 2017, the American credit bureau Equifax suffered a major data breach. This breach affected over 147 million American citizens, and to this day, many of the affected citizens are suffering from the consequences of the breach. Phone numbers, social security numbers, addresses: they all became visible to criminals who knew where to look.
The Equifax breach should have been the catalyst for widespread acknowledgement of the importance of cybersecurity. Yet to this day, many don’t take care of their accounts, their passwords, or their data like they should. If you’re reading this, that means you want to protect your data. Why not start by strengthening your passwords?
How to Reduce Password Vulnerability
Check For Compromised Passwords
Before you start changing all of your passwords, see which of your accounts have been compromised. You can do so by heading over to Have I Been Pwned, a compromised password-checker. It works by asking you to enter an email address. After you do, the website will check its records to see if any passwords related to that account have been compromised. If it finds compromised passwords, it will let you know which accounts so you can go and change your passwords.
Response time matters! Knowing which accounts need extra attention can prevent a data breach before one takes place, hence why sites like Have I Been Pwned are near-essential nowadays.
Never Reuse Passwords
Passwords are like credit card numbers—you want them to be unique. For example, if your credit card number is not unique, then the chances of that number being used by someone else drastically increases. In the same vein, reusing passwords across multiple accounts not only increases the possibility of a hacker figuring out that password but puts multiple accounts of yours in danger at once.
For this reason, always use unique passwords for your accounts; never reuse a password. Doing so is a great way to lose multiple accounts in a short span of time.
Avoid Storing Passwords Yourself
Keeping up with passwords can be tough. The average internet user has over 90 accounts on average, and who could possibly remember 90 passwords? Now, you may feel tempted to copy and paste your passwords into a Word doc or write your passwords down on a sticky note next to your computer. Both of these ideas sound fine but do more harm than good. What if you lose that sticky note? What if your system suffers from a hacking attack and you lose your Word doc?
Never save your passwords—not yourself, anyways. If you want to keep your passwords in an organized “sheet,” you can easily set up a password manager, which stores your passwords while encrypting them to keep them safe.
Other Ways to Protect Your Passwords & Online Activity
Encrypt Your Data With a VPN
More and more users are beginning to understand the importance of encryption, which is why Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have boomed in popularity over the past decade. But what is a VPN?
VPNs essentially encrypt the data your device sends through a network. The encrypted data becomes unreadable, unable to be stolen by cybercriminals. In other words, using a VPN will ensure that your data can travel through a network safely, without the worry of potential cyber criminals on the network looming over your head.
Install Privacy-Oriented Browser Extensions
There are tons of software developers out there that do what they do because they know how much users benefit from their work. A lot of these developers focus on creating functional programs and browser extensions designed to protect the end user’s privacy. Today, let’s focus on browser extensions.
Privacy-oriented browser extensions like Privacy Badger are fantastic for users who want to secure their browsing experience. Users can also go a bit further and use an adblocker like uBlock Origin if they want to get rid of annoying, potentially sketchy ads.
Many people don’t realize how dangerous weak passwords are, nor do they understand the significance of compromised accounts. But if you do, and you want to do something about it, take a look at these tips and put them to practice!