9 Things you Need to Know to stay secure – Security Series Part 1: The Importance of Passwords

It’s a complex world we live in nowadays, and as technology accelerates and grows, more and more of your personal and business information is being used either to target you or your customers, and the potential for that information to be used maliciously continues to grow exponentially. Protecting your personal and professional information in an online and mobile world is really no different than protecting your house and vehicles. Security can be as simple as locking the doors, or as elaborate as monitoring alarm systems.

The first step is a mindset that identifies the exposure, risk and management of your information whenever it’s requested.

This post will be the first in a series that goes into detail about what you can do to keep your information, and the information of your customers private and confidential.

The Importance of Passwords

High profile security breaches are constantly in the news, due to the world’s biggest companies facing new and emerging threats on a daily basis. Brands like Apple and Starbucks are struggling to protect their customers as they build an online profile of their lives. According to Ofcom, 70% of UK internet users are happy to give away their details* which is drip feeding hackers with the power to make seismic security breaches.

Passwords provide the first line of defence against unauthorised access to your computer, personal and business information. The stronger your password, the more protected your computer will be from hackers and malicious software. You should maintain strong passwords for all accounts on your computer.

What you can do

  1. Use a Password Management tool like LastPass or 1Password Setting up these tools on your computer and mobile devices makes it so you don’t need to remember passwords.  Make sure to also set up the account with 2 Factor Authentication for optimum security. 
  1. Use unique passwords for each account. Especially for all of your important accounts (i.e. email and online banking). Do not use the same password across multiple accounts.
  1. Use complex passwords or randomly generated passwords. Your password should consist of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. A long password will offer more protection than a short password if it is properly constructed. Password management tools allow you to create randomly generated passwords and ensure you don’t have to remember the password itself.
  1. No Personal Information in your password. Do not use personal information such as your name, age, date of birth, child’s name, pet’s name, or favorite color/song when constructing your password.
  1. Be mindful of your surroundings while entering passwords. Look around and make sure no one is watching while you enter your password. If somebody is, politely ask them to look away.
  1. Be careful around devices you don’t own or control. Avoid entering passwords on computers you don’t control – they may have malicious software installed to purposely steal your password. Always log off/sign out if you leave your device for the day – it just takes a few seconds to do and it’ll help ensure that no one uses your system for malicious purposes.
  1. Be mindful of unsecured Wi-Fi Networks. Avoid entering passwords when connected to unsecured Wi-Fi connections (like at an airport or coffee shop) – hackers can intercept your passwords and data over unsecured connections.
  1. Never tell your password to anyone. If you have to give your password to an IT person or professional, always try and give them their own access instead when possible. If it isn’t possible, be sure to change the password after they complete their work.
  1. Always select “never” when your Internet browser or phone asks for your permission to remember your passwords. Your web browser or phone is not secure and you should not be saving passwords in the memory there just in case someone gains access or steals your device. This is what a password manager with 2 Factor Authentication is for.

Conclusion

We all have a responsibility to keep our information secure, but for businesses and organisations that require trust from their customers this is even more important.  These guidelines written above will help you avoid most of the pitfalls you may encounter along the way.

How does your password process measure up? If you have ever made any of the mistakes above, consider re-evaluating and upgrading your password security process. After all, your password is all that protects your information, identity and even money from cyber criminals. Make sure yours is secure.

If you need help or want a consult on any of this, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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