We’ve all been guilty of letting our cybersecurity standards drop from time to time. Whether that’s repeating passwords across accounts or using our pets’ names as passwords.
But the trouble with dropping the ball when it comes to password and account security is that you’re much likelier to experience a data breach. Or worse, be the victim of a targeted cyberattack, which can lead to identity theft or financial losses.
Today’s threat landscape (to borrow a term from digital security experts) is more sophisticated than ever before. In 2020, cybercrime hit a whole new level as threat actors leveraged changes to how we work and live courtesy of the pandemic. The Financial Times even went so far as to call Covid-19 a “gift to cybercriminals.”
Suffice it to say, in 2021, robust account and password security is more important than ever. Staying on top of things isn’t difficult either, with proper digital hygiene and the right tools, you can boost your digital safety. Here’s how:
Key account and password security measures for 2021
Use complex passwords
Even though we’ve been told to do this for years, many of us still don’t heed the warnings from security researchers. For instance, a list of 2020s most commonly used passwords shows that far too many people are using codes such as ‘123456’ ‘qwerty123’ and ‘password’ — and as PCMag notes, these are “laughably insecure.”
When creating passwords, follow these basic rules:
- Aim for at least eight characters
- Never repeat passwords across sites or accounts
- Make it complex; use a mix of numerals, letters, and special characters such as the hash and pound symbols
- Do not use any personally identifying information such as phone numbers, names, birth dates, addresses, or postcodes.
The average consumer holds more than 30 different accounts, and unless you’ve got a photographic memory, keeping track of this many complex passwords is nigh on impossible. Thankfully, password managers can help.
Use a password manager
Password managers take the hassle out of remembering login details, and they also make it easy to generate new complex passwords. With a manager such as LastPass on the case, you’ll only need to sign in to your account with a master passcode, and then the software will do the rest of the work for you, including automatically logging you into sites where you hold an account.
Be cautious of unknown networks
While free WIFI in city centers and at the airport is incredibly convenient, especially if you’ve run out of data unexpectedly, it represents a cybersecurity nightmare. Public WIFI networks are riddled with risk, and hackers can easily position themselves between you and the connection points and distribute malware and other digital nasties.
If you must use open WIFI networks to log in to your accounts, make sure you encrypt your traffic. The easiest way to do this is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), if you don’t have one already, get a free VPN trial. The additional encryption will help you securely access the internet while mitigating any external threats.
Always choose multi-factor authentication
It’s no longer enough to verify your logins with just one method, such as your account name and password. Instead, you should equip all your accounts with multiple verification methods such as biometric authentication or SMS verification.
Consider a security key for your most sensitive account, for instance, those you hold with banks or government agencies. These work somewhat like a standard key in that they’re physical pieces of equipment. Unless the key is attached to your device, then your accounts cannot be opened.
Staying safe in 2021 is a matter of good digital practices and the right tools. Follow the tips above to keep your accounts (and your data) safe and sound.