With the ever-increasing popularity of the Internet, many of your real-world tasks are being shifted into the cloud. Despite companies reassuring you that these services are completely secure, we still hear of hackers gaining access to peoples’ email, social networking sites or the jackpot: online banking accounts. There’s little that you can do in terms of security on the companies’ end except expressing your concern. But what can you do to protect your sensitive online information? Security doesn’t have to be inconvenient. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the three easy steps that will increase your security for all your online accounts tenfold. It’s much simpler than you’d think!
Step 1: Password Managers
The first step in securing your online identity and accounts is to create secure passwords. Most people often use the same password for all their online profiles or perhaps one step up from that; each group of websites sharing a password. While this may be convenient for you, it also makes it just as convenient for a hacker to jump between your accounts too. Setting unique, randomized passwords for each individual website you use creates a physical barrier between your separate online accounts. While a hacker may end up cracking into your social networking account somehow, if you’re using a unique password, there’s little they can do to continue their spree into other accounts; unique passwords will contain any breaches far more effectively than any reused password could ever manage. But how can having to remember dozens upon dozens of passwords ever be convenient?
There are several services that provide what is called act as a password manager. These can either be run online in your web browser, or as desktop applications. Each category has its own pros and cons. If you’re one for convenience, an online password manager is the go-to solution. Popular solutions include a product called LastPass, but most reputable services provide essentially the same product. LastPass is a fantastic solution for a wide range of reasons. For starters, it’s entirely free, only requiring a dollar per month for the premium features, which you’ll want if you use a smartphone and need your passwords. Password managers such as these require you to only remember one master password that acts as a virtual key to your vault of passwords (and as such, you will want to make sure that it’s very secure). After you follow the setup instructions of your service of choice, the next step is the most time consuming: go through and replace your shared passwords with a unique password for all of your accounts. LastPass is able to generate a new password for you and after detecting that you’ve changed a password, prompt you to save it into your vault to be automatically filled out each time you’re logging into that site. Don’t worry about your passwords being visible to the company that runs your password manager; all good password managers are encrypted and impossible to open without your key. As such, they do not have a ‘forgot my password’ function, so don’t forget that master password, it’s your only key! If you’re still cautious about the thought of trusting all your passwords to an online service, you can use a desktop-based password manager, such as KeePass, but most similar applications will suffice. Now that you have a unique password for each of your services the next step in hack-proofing your life is to enable two-step authentication.
Step 2: Two-step authentication
Typically to log into one of your accounts, all you need to do is enter your a username and password, and you’re in. But for things like your banking and financial accounts, a second step can go a long way in preventing any intrusions. Two-step authentication is exactly that; it requires you to log in as normal, but then requires a second step to prove that you’re the real owner of the account. This is often in the form of a special one-time-use code sent by SMS to your phone to act as a second password. These systems are great because not only are they simple to use, they greatly increase the difficulty of hacking your accounts by requiring physical access to your phone – something most hackers wouldn’t ever bother with. The process of two-step authentication varies, but most banking websites and social networking websites provide them. If you can’t find any information about this process on your accounts help page, consider contacting the company to find out if two-step authentication is available.
Step 3: Reconsider your signing up
This step is arguably the most important principle that anyone wishing to increase their security must consider. Your online life and its security can only ever be as secure as the weakest link in the chain. Is it really worth jeopardizing all that hard work – possibly even exposing your sensitive information – just to sign up for a shady website? Before you hand over those details of yours, consider this, if a stranger asked for this information from you on the street, would you hand it over? Nearly anyone can set up websites these days to collect personal information for a quick buck on the black market. Remember to consider weight up how important this account is compared to all your personal information.
Leading a secure online life doesn’t have to be a hassle. In this article, we’ve covered three simple steps to increase your safety and security of your online world; unique passwords for each account, two-step authentication and reconsidering each website on a case-to-case basis goes a long way in making yourself secure online. By following these three steps, you’ve just greatly reduced your chances of losing those life savings or those precious photos saved in your email because your security was lacking. And remember, your security is only as strong as your weakest link, so keep them all strong!