The importance of using a UNIQUE and Strong Password in Your Online Accounts

Like it or not, computers are a part of every aspect our lives and because were creatures of habit, we tend to use the same password for everything. Sometimes we even get a little creative and change it up for certain websites that have more important information like online banking; but for the most part we use one email address and one password for every website we have an account with. Where this practice can be very dangerous is your expectation of security is contingent on each of those websites to be properly maintained and secured from hackers and as we’ve seen in the news, even government servers and really large corporations are not capable of thwarting every hacker’s attack.

There are multiple things to consider when strengthening your online account security and we want to help get your online accounts in good order. Understand the different types of attacks and the different reasons why hackers attack servers is important. Let me break those down for you.

Why does a hacker attack a server or gain access to a server?

  1. The hacker may want to gain access to simply brag to his hacker buddies showing off his hacker skills. This is usually horrible for the server that got hacked but it’s not as bad for the users because no information was removed or copied. (but there is no true way of knowing that)
  2. The hacker may be looking for credit card information to use himself or sell to other hackers, criminals or terrorists.
  3. The hacker wants to collect important private information from that server. Login credentials, in the form of usernames and/or email addresses as well as the highly coveted PASSWORDS are what they are looking for. This is where having the same password for multiple accounts opens you up for a major problem. A quick google search of your name often reveals many of the websites you have memberships with.. if your login info is the same for all.. they have access to all! – A useful tools to see if your login email has been compromised.

Now the question a lot of people ask themselves, what are they going to do with information once they get it? Well the answer to that question is simple… They’re going to make money! Many cyber criminals make their dishonest living by gaining access to accounts and information by either selling it or using it to make purchases and then selling the product they purchase. They don’t care who you are, they don’t care what you own, they don’t care what your political preferences are, they don’t care if you have family or not, don’t care if you’re a good person or not, they don’t care if you do good in the world, they only care about what they can get from your information.

Once your account login information is in “Hank the Hacker’s” hands, he begins attempting to log into all of the major websites with it. He is counting on you using the same login information for everything. If you use the same email address for everything (which most of us do, no blame here) and your password is also the same (it doesn’t matter how strong it is) then Hank is going to get into any and every account you have online; and yes it’s going to cost you in one way or another. In some cases Hank does his cyber criminal work and the victim never even knows about it. Hank can also use this login info to sign YOU up for services and products you never requested; often you don’t question it because … it is YOUR login info.

How do you avoid your account from being hacked?

“If you use the same password for every account, Your online account information is only as strong as the weakest website you have an account with.”

At the end of the day there is no full proof way to completely secure your online data because you can’t force all of the websites you have an account with to maintain the strongest server security. If you use the same password for every account, your online account information is only as strong as the weakest website you have an account with. What you can do is make your password different for every single website. I know that sounds completely impossible and unrealistic to maintain simply because we just can’t remember that many difficult passwords but here are a few ways to go about it.

  1. Utilize one of those “one password for all” type programs that scrambles your info; unfortunately it’s not always a good idea to depend on technology to fix technologies problems, even those systems can be hacked if you know the scrambling algorithm used. While this is an easy way to improve your cyber security, it’s not the best way.
  2. The most effective way to guarantee all of your accounts will not be hacked is to use a unique password for each account. While the cyber criminal might be able to get one account he wont get them all.

Remembering Strong Passwords – Made Easier

The best way to remember the passwords so you don’t have to store them somewhere (making it impossible to log into that account without having that form of storage with you at all times) is to use the following method:

Let’s say your usual password is something like this generic example: PassWord123

You would need to strengthen the password by changing it up slightly, like this: Pa$$wurd123

This is a very strong password providing you didn’t actually use the word “password” but something else like your child or pet’s name and a unique number. Let’s take it to the next level and make it unique for each website in a way that enables you to remember it easily…

Add the website you’re going to use this on to the password somehow but in a way that if a hacker looks at it with their own eyes, not with a program or script that they’re running to manage these passwords, he won’t make a connection. For example, let’s say you were going to change your password for different accounts; you could change the password for each account but still make it memorable: 

iTunes: Pa$$wurd-IT-123
Facebook: Pa$$wurd-FB-123
Twitter: Pa$$wurd-TW-123

I’ve highlighted in red what I added to the password to make it unique. Using this password como helps you remember your password AND make it unique for each account!

Time is money so if the cyber criminal can’t get into an account fast he usually moves onto the next victim. The high end criminals have programs that run all combinations of passwords so naturally those are going to be a combination of security from the company AND strong passwords to defend against these sophisticated and well funded cyber attacks.

That’s it! Now go change all your passwords on all of your accounts!!