3 things to do TODAY to secure your online accounts

There are many things computer users can do in order to start securing their information, whether it be on a computer, mobile device, the internet etc. And while the majority of these things should be done by everyone, I’ve outline what I believe to be 3 CRITICAL cyber security steps that should implement today. If you are serious about keeping your information protected as best it can be, you should not skimp on these tips.

1.) Use unique, long and complex passwords 
It’s quite surprising that this effective tip to secure your online accounts is overlooked by many, but still in 2016 an overwhelming number of people usually violate this rule. According to SplashData‘s 25 Most Popular Passwords of 2015, we are still long way from getting the masses to use more secure passwords. A shorted top 10 list is below:

Rank Password Change from 2014
1 123456 Unchanged
2 password Unchanged
3 12345678 Up 1
4 qwerty Up 1
5 12345 Down 2
6 123456789 Unchanged
7 football Up 3
8 1234 Down 1
9 1234567 Up 2
10 baseball Down 2

So how does one create a stronger password? First, your passwords should always be unique if possible. That meaning, you shouldn’t use a single password for multiple accounts. Also, ensure your passwords are at a good length. Earlier recommendations were to have a password at a length of 8 characters or more, however my personal recommendation is to try and aim for 15+ characters if possible (Read more about password length here). Lastly, ensure your passwords are complex, requiring an uppercase letter, symbol(s) and numbers and if possible avoid Dictionary words like Cat, Birthday, Computer, Football and other words commonly found in the dictionary (you can obfuscate words if needed like changing Cats to c@T$.

2.) Enable 2-factor authentication on important accounts

Two-factor authentication, once exclusively used for enterprise purposes is now making its rounds to consumers in an effort to provide hardened security to online accounts. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple are among those that have implemented this security feature for its customer base. What is Two-Factor Authentication? It’s a method of securing your account(s) by requiring not only a password to login but also a unique, one-time generated code to access your account. The code can be emailed, sent via text message or requested through a generator app like Authy or Google Authenticator (Some companies like Facebook have their own code generator). The security benefit in this comes from the fact that codes can only be generated on a trusted device that you’ve authorized such as your cell phone. The purpose of this code is to verify that you are authorized to access your account. Because passwords can be easily intercepted and cracked, adding 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) provides an additional layer of security. So even if your password is known by an attacker, they would also require your trusted device to generate a code to access the account. As long as your device is safe with you, so are your online accounts.

 if your email account gets hacked, that can cascade down to having other accounts attached to that email address become compromised via email password resets.

So which accounts should you enable 2FA on? All of them that support it if possible. If that’s too much of a hassle, then I recommend at least enable it on your email account(s). Remember that if your email account gets hacked, that can cascade down to having other accounts attached to that email address become compromised via email password resets.

To learn more about 2FA, visit here.

Would it shock you if I told you that many of these hacks could have been prevented with better security education?

3.) Become more cyber security aware 

This probably has to be the most important tip I can give someone. Be aware, educate yourself on how information security is vital to each and every one of us. We see quite frequently in the news nowadays how companies are being targeted by hackers as well as individual citizens having their identities stolen or private information compromised. Would it shock you if I told you that many of these hacks could have been prevented with better security education? Often times these successful attacks are due to weak passwords and/or lack of layered security. If we continue to do our part here at TolbertSecurity.com and educate the masses on good cyber security habits, you can arm yourself with the knowledge on how to minimize your chances of getting hacked.

Written by Paul Tolbert
Paul Tolbert is an email security specialist & tech blogger living in Pensacola, Florida. He is the founder of TolbertSecurity.com where he post informative tips, research and up to date news regarding cyber security.