Online Accounts: Tips to Improve your Digital SecurityCarly Broetz, BBA, Wealth Advisor
As technology advances, online crimes continue to improve in sophistication, and our digital security is increasingly being challenged. If our choice of passwords is any indication, we may not be doing our best to stay secure. According to a recent report, 23.2 million people who had their online accounts hacked were still using the password, “123456.”1
Ways to Improve Our Digital Security
Here are some basic tips to improve your digital security. While many of these tips may seem obvious, this checklist can provide useful talking points for discussions with potentially higher-risk individuals, such as young adults or seniors:
- Keep strong passwords — Strengthen your passwords. Avoid reusing the same user ID/password across multiple websites. With the average person reportedly having over 90 online accounts, this may be a challenge.2 Using a password manager can help to generate, store, encrypt and auto-fill passwords, and you’ll just need to remember one password.
- Separate critical information — Consider isolating devices for different activities. For example, online gaming may be more susceptible to security breaches, so it may be wise to avoid storing confidential information on devices used for this activity.
- Protect devices in public — Unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those offered at airports or in taxicabs, or public USB charging stations, are often targets for hackers. Consider using a Virtual Private Network for protection, which allows you to bypass location tracking and adds a layer of obfuscation to your traffic.
- Avoid linking accounts — Some third-party websites allow you to link other accounts, such as email or social media. However, linking multiple accounts can increase the potential damage that occurs if one account becomes compromised.
- Don’t share personal information — Remember that each time you click a website link or answer a seemingly innocuous survey, your data is collected. Information broadcast on websites or social media may be accessible to unscrupulous individuals, even if privacy settings are enabled. Consider disguising personal data (i.e., posting an altered name/birthdate) to protect your identity.
- Verify a source to prevent phishing — Criminals continue to improve the sophistication with which they masquerade themselves as others. There may be subtle indications that a source is fake: an email/text doesn’t address you directly (“dear customer”) or contains spelling or grammatical errors. Remember that reputable institutions will never ask to verify account information or sensitive personal data online. Take time to verify a source. When in doubt, call an organization directly using the phone number posted on a general website.
How Long Does it Take To Crack a Password?
- <0.01 seconds — Easy passwords (e.g., 123456, qwerty, password, sunshine)3
- 25 seconds — 5-digit passwords3, 4
- 1 hour — 6-digit passwords5
- 46 days — 8-digit password5
- 12 years — 10-digit passwords5
Consider this basic checklist to implement the best solutions available to improve your digital security.
- Consumer Protection BC