How many online accounts do you own? Your banking account, your shopping account, your smart phone account, the pizza delivery service… the list goes on.
It’s likely each one of these accounts require a username and password. Unless you have a superhuman memory, you’ve probably reused the same account credentials across several of them. This is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make online, and it can leave you — and the businesses you patronise — incredibly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Here’s why.
Say a hacker gains access to your online account with your hairdresser. You may not care if he knows about your appointment for a cut and blow dry at 10am on Friday with Emma, but he does care about the account credentials that he’s now in possession of. If you have used the same password for another online account that stores more sensitive information, such as your online banking account, he can now find out a lot more about you than just your hair preferences, and use that information as he pleases.
How does this common bad habit affect the businesses you patronise, or your place of work? If employees utilise their work credentials on personal online accounts and reuse the same credentials across multiple accounts — and one of those accounts is hacked — a business can be left exposed.
Besides kicking that nasty habit of account credential reuse, one of the easiest ways to reduce your online vulnerability is to utilize strong, unique passwords across your online ecosystem.
For the strongest passwords:
- Make sure your combinations are at least 12 characters long, and are a cryptic combination of letters and numbers.
- Take care to avoid your name, birthday, or pet’s name.
- Create a unique password for each site.
- Change your passwords a few times a year, and especially after being notified after a breach.
- Implement two-factor authentication for sites whenever possible.