The online sphere is now a place where we communicate with friends and family, business associates check our bank accounts, file forms and all other manner of important, confidential things. Just a few years ago, there was still paranoia around the topic of what the average person would be willing to share online, however now with the explosion of social networking and ecommerce, we are happier than ever to input our details online. The question of course, as we are going about our daily online business is how to protect our online identities from being stolen, used or abused by others. Here is a guide.
1.) Choose a strong password
Your password is the key between you and all of your online information and so it should be considered as a serious matter of utmost importance. Choosing a password that is easy to guess such as the name of your first pet, your girlfriend or boyfriends name or your favourite food is simply asking for trouble. In fact, and “word” is asking for trouble as computer hacking programs can guess an entire dictionary in less than five minutes to gain access. A good password will be incredibly difficult to guess and take longer than a day for an automated program to guess and that means it will have large and small caps, letters, numbers and symbols.
2.) Don’t use the same password for everything
Yes yes, we know we know: its very difficult to think up a super password you can remember for every single online activity you use and so there is a temptation to use a blanket skeleton key like password for every online portal. What doing this means is that once one area is hacked, off goes the rest of your online accounts into the world of hackdom. Every online account you open will contain some basic details which can lead a hacker to the rest of your accounts. Having unique passwords for everyone doesn’t have to be difficult: changing the first letter, the first number (or the last if you prefer) will help you keep tabs on your passwords and also give you time to go across your accounts and change them should you ever need to.
3.) Change your password immediately after sharing it
There is a time in our lives when we will have to give someone a password for something. You may have emailed the password, text the password or written the password down. However you have shared your password, what is important is that you change it immediately after the sharing is done to make sure your password stays where it should: with you.
4.) Beware emails from “trusted” sites
Banks, social medias, blogs – all of these emails are easily replicated by hackers who will send these emails (called “phishing” emails) to you, encouraging you to log in to an account. Often, you will need to log in a number of times before it allows you in. Rather than respond to these emails, if you have an email that you are concerned by or feel a need to respond to – do so by phone or in person just to make sure the email is genuine.
Ben is an identity protection expert with a keen interest in image rights. He often blogs about ways people can protect their identity online.