Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, it is a perfect time to discuss password protecting your devices. Passwords are like the keys to your home. Not having a password on your computers and online accounts would be akin to leaving your house unlocked and fully open to the public.
The strength of the password is also crucial to maintaining your privacy and identity online. Using words or pet and family names, while a common practice, can leave your information vulnerable to identity theft. For a list of the 500 most commonly used passwords, check out the article “A List of 500 Passwords You Shouldn’t be Using” by Jason O. Gilbert.
Some key concepts for securing your data include:
• Create long passwords with a minimum of 8 characters.
• Include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
• Do not use a recognizable word such as a pet or name.
• Use phrases as the foundation of your password. One trick is to use the first letter of a part of a favorite song. For example, use the OSU Alma Mater which might look like P@!Bsyn107 (“Proud and immortal Bright shines your name,” followed by a favorite number).
• NEVER share your password with others.
• Store passwords in a safe place to ensure you don’t forget them.
• Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
A nice tool for checking the strength of passwords is to use the Microsoft’s Safety and Security Center. It is also important to secure your mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Both Apple and Android devices are equipped with a passcode option that can be either a 4-6 digit number or can be an actual password. For many of us, our mobile devices may contain access to our banking information and credit cards, not to mention email that may contain confidential information. Always secure your mobile device with a passcode!
Password protecting devices is an easy step to securing your personal data and identity. While there is no fool-proof way to prevent an online predator from hacking your accounts, following these steps and ensuring you have secure passcodes/passwords on all of your mobile devices, computers and online accounts can help prevent a thief from breaking in and stealing your private information. Secure all mobile devices to prevent identify theft!