Every internet user relies on passwords to keep their data safe.
If their passwords were to leak, or if a cybercriminal were to steal them, that user’s data would be at risk of being stolen. And that’s not to mention how many people have permanently lost access to their accounts due to hackers changing the passwords to those accounts—a practice similar to that of changing the locks to someone’s house without giving them a new key.
It is no secret that the topic of password security is surrounded by controversy and fear. Some users believe passwords are on their way out. Others think that companies need to protect better customer data, which includes login credentials. While the future of passwords and cybersecurity as a whole is unclear, there are things that you can do to protect your accounts, strengthen your passwords, and keep your data out of the wrong hands.
Tips and Tools To Help Secure Your Passwords
Convenience affects the way people think about certain products, services, etc. If the thing in question isn’t convenient, then the person may not go for it. The same can be said for passwords, an aspect of cybersecurity that many will forego simply because remembering lost passwords isn’t easy.
As a user has around 90 passwords on average, it’s clear why people would trade security for convenience and use short, simple passwords that are susceptible to brute-force hacks. But there is a solution to the inconvenience of using strong passwords: a password manager.
Password managers allow users to store and organize their account credentials in an encrypted storage solution (known as a locker). With a password manager, users can use strong passwords without fear of forgetting them and being locked out of their account—they can have both convenience and security.
Random Password Generators
A good password manager answers the question, “how can I securely store passwords,” but it does not answer how users can create strong passwords. After all, using short passwords only puts accounts at risk of being hacked; users need to use strong, lengthy, convoluted passwords that even they can’t remember!
Fortunately, there are plenty of random password generators, online tools that allow you to generate strong passwords on the internet that are entirely free to use. And depending on which password manager you decide to go with, you may be able to use the random password generator bundled with the password manager.
Passwords by themselves are not enough, however. It’s important you do everything you can to protect your data, and when talking about accounts and passwords, that means using multi-factor authentication on your accounts.
Multi-factor authentication—commonly referred to as two-factor authentication—requires users to verify their identity before logging in. For example, Amazon requires the user to enter a one-time passcode sent to the phone number registered on the Amazon account. If the person attempting to log in—in this case, a cybercriminal—does not have access to the user’s phone, then they cannot access the account.
As you can tell, two-factor authentication is vital to account security. Enable it on all of your accounts immediately!
5 Tools to Help Further Secure Your Passwords & Data
The three tools above will help you directly secure your accounts and strengthen your passwords. However, there are plenty of other software tools to help you indirectly keep your data safe, including your accounts.
1. A Virtual Private Network
Most cafes, restaurants, stores, and other places that experience heavy foot traffic offer free, public Wi-Fi to visitors. On the surface, these public networks offer convenience for free. However, public networks lack the security and encryption you would find on your home network. As a result, public Wi-Fi networks represent a threat for all users connected to the network.
Cybercriminals can easily connect to a public network and launch a network-based attack, such as a man-in-the-middle attack, on anyone. They could steal someone’s data without the victim even knowing! Public networks can be dangerous, and you should avoid them at all costs.
But what if you need the convenience of public networks? What if you use public networks to get work done? In those cases, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data and avoid the pitfalls of using a public network.
If you don’t currently have a subscription to a VPN, you can always try out a VPN free trial or wait for any VPN deals that may pop up in the near future. But do not use a public network without encrypting your data.
2. Storage Destruction Services
If you work at a company that manages a lot of data, then chances are your company has had to dispose of old or broken hard drives. What should a company do with those hard drives? Should they throw them away? Keep them locked up in a broom closet?
Even if a hard drive doesn’t “work,” it still contains the data put onto it during use. As a result, when a company or individual needs to get rid of a hard drive, their best bet is to send the hard drive(s) to a company dedicated to the safe destruction of data, such as Shred-It.
Users could also destroy the data themselves, but doing so rarely brings the 100% certainty that the data has been destroyed compared to destroying it through a data destruction service.
3. An Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware Program
Not all cybercriminals steal data through blatant attacks and brute-force hacks. Some cybercriminals unleash malware and viruses on a network or through the internet to infect users’ machines and steal data with malicious software.
The worst part about this tactic is that detecting malware or viruses is difficult—very difficult. Fortunately, a reputable anti-virus program coupled with an anti-malware program will alert you to the presence of any malicious software on your device, giving you time to respond to and eliminate the threat.
4. Private Browsers & Search Engines
Google has a troubling track record when it comes to data privacy. After all, Google is a dominant online force, and it knows this, which is why it collects user data whenever possible.
Google’s irresponsible treatment of its users’ data has created a market for privacy-oriented browsers and search engines. DuckDuckGo, for instance, is a search engine that promises total anonymity while surfing the internet.
Browsers like Firefox and Brave have also begun offering users privacy and security, making those two aspects central to their marketing. Users have plenty of privacy-oriented browsers to choose from. And really, there’s no reason not to move to one of them over Google Chrome, Edge, or Safari.
5. Remote Wipe
Both Windows and Apple offer “Find My” features. These features allow users to locate lost or stolen devices. It’s a great feature; one everyone should enable. This feature comes with an option that everyone should keep in mind if they ever find themselves unable to reclaim their lost device: remote wipe.
Remote wiping allows users to wipe the data on their devices remotely completely. Remote wipes are a last resort. But there’s no telling if you’ll ever be in a situation that requires you to take advantage of this feature, hence why you should enable it.
The best way to start securing your data is by improving your passwords and strengthening your accounts. From there, you can begin securing your data and devices with an array of tools that allow you to stay safe, private, and secure online.