TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - In what seems like a vicious cycle, we get the news alert of yet another huge data breach potentially affecting millions of accounts. Next, we get the reminders, prompting people to change passwords to something increasingly longer and more complex, making them more and more difficult to remember. And yet these simple character strings protect access to our money, social media accounts and much of our private data.
Security and ease of use occupy space at opposite ends of the spectrum. We want our lives to be easy and stress free, so many of us slide the proverbial slider towards the easy side and use the easiest possible password. Believe it or not, many surveys list “123456” as the most popular password for several years. Even worse, password reuse, or sharing the same password across multiple accounts is a very common, and a very dangerous practice.
So what should we do about it?
· First, enable two-factor authentication everywhere possible. Similar to our work computers, 2FA uses two different ways to verify that you are who you say you are. Think about your common access card, something you have, and your Personal Identification Number, something you know. Enabling this extra layer of security significantly decreases your vulnerability to attack. More and more websites are enabling 2FA including Google, USAA, Amazon, Facebook and the list is growing every day.
· Second, when you choose a password, stay away from patterns, commonly words or common themes. Also, incremental changes such as password01or password02 can leave you vulnerable to hackers, especially if your old password was compromised.
· Finally, protect your passwords. Never write your password down, in fact, consider using a password manager or software solution to keep your accounts safe and away from prying eyes.
The online world we live in leaves us vulnerable to the predators out there. Is the only thing protecting your money and photos of your children a username and a flimsy string of characters? Be a hard target and do everything you can to keep your precious data safe.