Hackers may target you specifically because of your work and try to gain access to your online accounts to do so.
Rule number one: Always create long passwords. Hackers often use computer programs that can guess an extremely high number of password combinations, especially weak ones. A strong password is made up of more than fourteen or more characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols.
Best practice: passwords
- Check if any of your accounts have been compromised by using haveibeenpwned.com. This site will check to see if your email and/or your password have been part of a data breach – if so, change its password straight away. Register with the site to be notified of any future breaches.
- Online services register and store data on you. When the security of these sites is breached, your data is put at risk. Companies such as Linkedin and Dropbox have been hacked and their data – including email addresses and passwords of their users – was stolen. This is one reason why you should not re-use passwords. If one account is breached, hackers may try to use that password to gain access to your other accounts.
- Use a password manager to create and store strong unique passwords for you. See our section below.
- Do not include personal details in your passwords. These are easy for you to remember, but they are also easy for hackers to crack.
- Create long passwords, known as passphrases. See our guide below.
- Do not click on the option to save passwords to your browsers. These are not secure and are easy to access.
A password manager is currently the most secure way of managing your passwords. This is an app that you can download to your devices that allows you to generate and store strong passwords for your accounts. You will, however, have to create a unique, long password for your password manager.
Here is a selection of commonly-used password managers. Research your own password manager before buying to make sure that it suits your needs.
Creating a strong password
If you do not want to use a password manager, you should create long, uniquepasswords for each of your accounts. You may wish to write these passwords down and keep them somewhere safe. This is not advisable if you feel that your home may be broken into, if you are travelling, or if you feel you are at risk of being detained.
There are several ways to do this, including the methods listed below. There is no ‘official’ or fool-proof method, so you should choose the way that best suits you.
Here are some methods for creating more secure passwords:
- The Dice Method – This can create incredibly hard-to-hack passwords. Roll four dice and use the numbers generated to select a word from a list. The more words you select, the stronger the password. The Electronic Frontier Foundation gives clear instructions on how to use this method.
- The Person, Action, Object Method – Use this method to create memorable passphrases. To summarise Lifehacker’s explanation of it: “Think of a person, an action and a place, and maybe a few other things: Beyonce, driving, Mount Rushmore, Jello mold. These are then combined into a sentence to be used as a passphrase: “Beyonce driving a Jello mold at Mount Rushmore.”