Protecting your accounts against hacking

There’s been a lot of news lately about hacking. People have had credit cards hacked. Yahoo got hacked. Target was the target of data breach shenanigans. Recently, I got a notice that my PC Plus account had the password reset because of a breach. You may have too. Truth is we live in an online world. All of our digital lives depend on the skill of a few people fighting off the efforts of thousands. Hacking is big money, because data is big money. It’s why Facebook is worth tens of billions. It’s why you can freely use services like Gmail, Outlook, Google and others. Your usage generates delicious, delicious data for these companies to mine, target and sell.

What’s in a hack

What does this have to do with hacking? Everything. It means that hackers are as interested in your data as these legitimate companies. While we freely give it to companies like Facebook, the hackers have to trick or steal it from us. It also means that everyone is a target. Yup, the days of hiding behind “I’m not important enough to hack” are gone. Your account can literally unlock thousands of dollars in data for hackers. Even worse, it probably doesn’t take much to trace you to your employer. They can use this data to gain access to your work account. Worse still, they can use it to steal all sorts of things from your company.

If you use the internet, you’re a target.

Protect thyself

So, how do you protect yourself? First, make a strong passphrase for your account. Passwords can be guessed fairy quickly, use phrases instead. Combine mixed case and numbers to make it even stronger. Then, don’t re-use it. Try and use unique passphrases for each place you login. At the very least, make a variation of your passphrase for each site. Lastly, turn on two factor authentication.

What is two factor authentication? Well, it’s the best way to make sure that nobody you don’t want to be has access to your stuff online. It works just like the name suggests: there is some secondary prompt or action you have to take to log in. In many cases, this involves a mobile app or text message. Nearly every login you have online has some form of two factor authentication. Enabling it is easy, and the peace of mind it provides can be big. Nobody has access to the site without you providing that second piece of proof. Sure, the prompts are a pain, and you need to have your mobile handy, but they can keep your accounts safe. At the very least, you’ll know when somebody has made an unauthorized attempt at your account.

Herd immunity

All this does have a glaring caveat. As safe as you make your account, your information is only as safe as the servers it lives on. Any breach of another person’s account, or the systems where your data lives, and you’re at risk again. It’s scary, but it’s really out of your control. And we can all help avoid the data from a whole system getting hacked by securing your stuff. Hacking herd immunity. Ultimately, hacking is a risk we face online. It’s one where the good really outweighs the bad. Take control of your data, and do as much as you can not to be the weak link in the system.

Remember

  • Use a passphrase, not a password.
  • Mix up the letter case, throw in a number or symbol to spice it up.
  • Don’t reduce, reuse or recycle passphrases.
  • Enable two factor authentications.
  • “Password” is not a password.

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