In honor of Cybersecurity Awareness month, we wanted to provide some insights on how to be best protected while online. If you’ve ever experienced someone hacking into one of your online accounts or had your personal information exposed during a data breach, you understand why it’s important to know how to keep your online passwords secure. And if you’ve never experienced this? You’re lucky.
Either way, whether it’s for business or personal use, keeping passwords and online information safe and secure is probably simpler than you think. We will go over some basics to help make sure you are on the right track.
Simple Do’s and Don’ts of Password Security
During our annual reviews at Risler Financial Management, we asked clients how they store and organize their passwords. Some responded that they used a piece of paper, which they then had to cross out and mark up every time the password changed. Others kept a digital file on their computer. Here are a few good rules of thumb for ensuring strong password security.
- Use a unique password for every website. If a hacker gets your password to one site, this will prevent them from accessing your accounts on other sites as well.
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters.
- Use strong password suggestions. Most web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Firefox by Mozilla, will suggest strong passwords for you when you create an account. Users are often intimidated by these passwords because they’re long and complicated (think something like “RtgH4)@bnJlK6y”) and they know they’ll never remember them. These complex passwords make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts however, so go ahead and use them. This will also ensure that you have a unique password for every site and account.
- Use a service like LastPass or Keeper Security to organize all your passwords. These types of services will store your passwords and login information and then require you to only remember a single password to log in on any site you have stored. Better yet, they’ll also let you know when you have duplicate passwords on various sites so that you can change them and increase your security. And the best part? Once you’ve used and saved those strong password suggestions from your browser, you won’t need to remember them. The password management service will do it for you.
- Use simple passwords (think: “password” or “password123”). Simple passwords are the easiest for hackers to access.
- Use the same password on every site. This bears repeating. If a bad actor gains access to your password on one site and you’ve used it for several others, now they’ll be able to access all your accounts.
- Store your passwords in a document on your computer or in the cloud. Computers are vulnerable to attacks, and services that let you store data in the cloud (Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) are merely other accounts hackers can access if they get your password.
- Forget about your phone and tablet. They’re simply smaller computers that keep all your login information, which means they’re also susceptible to attack. Most password management platforms have mobile apps which can work across all your devices.
Keeping Your Personal Accounts Safe
If you’re ready to secure your personal accounts – anything and everything from your social media accounts to your banking and financial information – you’ll want to look at password management platforms such as LastPass, 1Password, Keeper Security, or Bitwarden. All have options for free trials, and LassPass and Bitwarden both have free tier options. For more security options, it’s recommended that you look at the premium tiers where you can expect to pay approximately $40/year for an individual user account.
Your password management needs might depend on factors such as how many people you want on the account, what operating system or device you’re using, and whether you want a free solution or more enhanced premium features. Be sure to do your research!
Keeping Your Business Accounts Safe
People often think about password security as something that happens at home, but don’t forget to secure your business accounts, as well. In any kind of organization, passwords are often shared among various employees or members, which then creates a greater security risk. When you use a password management service for business, employees who need to access those accounts will only need to know a single password to do so.
LastPass, 1Password, and Bitwarden, mentioned above for personal accounts, all have business and team plans. At RFM, we use Keeper Security (not an affiliate link), a powerful platform that provides multiple options including solutions for personal, business, enterprise, public sector, and MSP use.
The Role of Password Security in Legacy and Estate Planning
No one likes to think about it, but if you were to pass away tomorrow, would your estate be in order – including your online accounts? The role of password security in legacy and estate planning is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of the process. Including your online accounts in your estate plans will make it easier for your loved ones to access those accounts if needed to settle your affairs.
If you needed one more reason to be using a password management platform, this is it. Rather than leave a list of passwords that may or may not be outdated, you can include the login information for your password management tool of choice in your plans and your loved ones will be able to access everything they need, thereby making a difficult process smoother for them.
Hopefully this post has driven home the importance of secure password management and helped you to learn how easily it can be done. Using weak, simple, or repeated passwords is simply not a risk you can afford to take. We will also be hosting a cybersecurity webinar on Wednesday, November 2, at 5:30 pm EST. Please click HERE to register!