Protecting Online Accounts with Strong Passwords

Lynn Corthell |

Ever since I’ve known her, my friend Martha (name changed) has always had great password hygiene. This is why I was surprised when she confided to me that a few years ago, she used to be very lax with her passwords. She had the same password for all her online accounts, and it was something very easy to guess, like her name and birthdate. Martha thought it was convenient and harmless, until one day she got an email from her bank saying that someone had tried to access her account from a different country.

How did they get her password? What if they had succeeded? Martha had been rightfully concerned about other accounts that may have been compromised. When Martha told me this story, I realized then that she had been putting herself and her data at risk by using weak passwords.

In a effort to prevent you from experiencing what Martha went through, here are some of the tips that I have learned and applied over the years:

  • Use a different password for each account: Hackers will use a known User ID and Password across multiple sites to see if they get “lucky.” By using a different password for each site, if one of your passwords is compromised, the rest of your accounts are still safe.

  • Make your passwords long and complex: Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common words, names, dates, or personal information that can be easily guessed or found online.

  • Use a password manager: A password manager is a tool that securely stores and generates passwords for you. You only need to remember one master password to access all your other passwords. A password manager can also help you change your passwords regularly and notify you if you are using one password for multiple accounts.

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): 2FA (sometimes referred to as Dual Factor Authentication or DFA) is an extra layer of security that requires you to enter a code or use a device (such as your phone) to verify your identity when you log in to your accounts. This way, even if someone has your password, they still need another factor to access your account.

  • Be careful where and how you enter your passwords: Avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks, computers, or devices to log in to your accounts. Use a private browser window or incognito mode when possible. Do not click on links or open attachments from unknown or suspicious sources that may lead you to phishing sites or malware.

By following these tips, Martha has improved her password hygiene and reduced the chances of being hacked or scammed online. She feels more confident and secure when using the internet for work or logging into her accounts. If you are not already doing so, I hope you will protect yourself and your data with strong passwords. Remember: your password is the key to your online world, so make it strong and keep it safe!