How to Prevent your Password from Being Stolen
by Calvin Fellows
Topic: Prevent Password Theft
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Password security has never been more critical than it is today. From personal identification to account access and data storage, passwords are used in almost all digital transactions.
Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of apps, devices, websites, and services that require passwords, it is easy for cybercriminals to compromise passwords and confidential data.
To protect your digital information, it's essential for anyone using passwords to make sure they're as strong as possible.
While there's a lot that goes into personal cybersecurity and password management, there are some best practices and tips to use if you want to avoid having your password stolen and to improve your overall web security.
Always Use a Strong Password
A robust password is one that can’t be guessed easily, either by hacking algorithms or manually, and has strong password security.
The first step to creating a strong password is making sure that it doesn’t contain any obvious or personal information such as your name, date of birth, or address.
Avoid using any numbers or letter sequences such as ‘123456’, ‘123456789’, ‘qwerty,’ or obvious phrases for your passwords such as ‘password’ or ‘password123’. These kinds of sequences and terms are common-place and don’t do enough to provide users with adequate security.
Aim to make your passwords as long and difficult to guess as you can. If possible, try and use more than 15 characters for each password you create. Within these 15 characters, try and use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters alongside symbols and numbers. Doing this makes your passwords unique and challenging for others to guess.
A great idea is to use song lyrics or literary quotes to form a password phrase, capitalizing each word.
Never Use the Same Password More than Once
If a hacker targets an unsecured website containing your only password and gains access to it, they suddenly have a potential way into every website or online service you use.
It can be tempting to use the same password multiple times, but this should be avoided.
Using the same password multiple times harms your password security and makes it easier for hackers to gain access to sensitive and confidential information.
While you may think that no one will be able to guess your favorite childhood pet's name, hackers don't typically sit around using a bunch of different passwords to see what works and what doesn't. Instead, they target vulnerable websites, apps, devices, and services and gain access to a multitude of different passwords all at once.
If a hacker targets an unsecured website containing your only password and gains access to it, they suddenly have a potential way into every website or online service you use. The first they are going to do is try that password for another website or online service to see if it works.
To prevent this from happening, use a different password for each website, device, app, or service you use that requires a password. While it can be difficult to remember multiple passwords, it’s better than your one and only password falling into unwanted hands.
If you're using different passwords, at least you know that the other accounts you use are safe should one of your passwords ever be compromised.
The best way to remember all your passwords and keep them secure is to use password management software. These programs allow you to store all your passwords in a secure location and generate encrypted passwords for high-security sites such as financial institutions.
Never Share Your Password With Anyone
Even if you trust the person, you still can't be 100% sure what they will do with your password or access details.
When you give your password to someone else, you're seriously compromising the security of the account the password provides access to. Even if you trust the person, you still can't be 100% sure what they will do with your password or access details.
For example, the person you share your password with may write the password down and store it in an unsafe location where it could be stolen; they might store the password on an unsecured device that can be hacked or communicate the password over an insecure messaging platform. Any of these scenarios open up the possibility of others gaining access to your password.
Even if the person you share your password with means no harm, sharing your password with them only increases the chances of your password and data being stolen.
Be Wary of Password Phishing Attempts
Never follow a link that asks you to change your password unless you prompted it.
You should only ever click on or open any password reset links that you have requested.
Hackers often pose as an official organization, service, or website to trick users into either sharing their passwords or resetting their password through a link that the hacker has sent and has access to.
To prevent this from happening, never follow a link that asks you to change your password unless you prompted it. If you ever receive an email, SMS, or any other form of communication asking you to change your password that you didn’t request, make sure you delete it and report it as spam.
It’s also worth contacting the organization/company that the communication has come from to let them know you were the target of a phishing attack.
For example, if you get an SMS message or email from your bank asking you to change your password, but you haven't requested to reset it, contact your bank to let them know of the fraudulent phishing attempt so they’re aware of it and can act upon this information.
Protect Your Devices
If you're looking to keep a particular device secure but you're unsure how to contact the device’s manufacturer.
While all the electronic devices we use today bring a lot of convenience, they also offer ample opportunities for hackers to gain access to private and sensitive data.
To stop this from happening, it's important to try and make sure any device you're using is secure as possible.
For desktops and laptops, make sure you use a firewall, install antivirus software, update applications and operating systems regularly, use strong passwords, and back up your files regularly.
For tablets and cell phones, make sure you use a secure login PIN/Password, keep your apps and operating system up to date, only download apps that you trust, and avoid clicking or sharing any suspicious-looking links.
If you're looking to keep a particular device secure but you're unsure how to contact the device’s manufacturer. The manufacturer should be able to give you tips and recommendations or point you in the direction of resources and information you can follow to make sure the device is secure.
It's impossible to keep your passwords 100% safe and secure all the time, but by using common sense and password security best practices, you can reduce the chances of any of your passwords being compromised.
If you're currently using any weak passwords or using the same password more than once, spend some time changing or strengthening your passwords to make sure every website, app, service, or device you're using is as secure as possible.
About the Author
Calvin Fellows is a former military security agent and police detective who headed security administration. Calvin is experienced and knowledgeable in all avenues of personal and corporate security, and is dedicated to educating people on how to preempt any physical or cyber security attacks before they happen.