An exercise most of us have had in place since the start of our computer use over the years has been using passwords to access various systems. Most systems we work with require a password just to use, and some even have specific requirements for the details of the passwords we choose. The use of computer passwords has changed a lot since they were started in the early 1960s by Fernando Corbato, a former computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just as technology has been constantly evolving to help us, it also continues to become more efficient for hackers to create security breaches.
So, what can we do to stay current on how secure we are with our passwords?
First, it is important to create complex, hard-to-guess passwords. This can be tough because we also want passwords that are easy for us to remember. Many sites will require a password that contains one capital letter, one number, one symbol, and a character minimum. One way to accomplish both is to create passwords that are a word that is easy for us to remember but using symbols and numbers as substitutions for specific letters. For example, you can substitute “$” for “s”, “@” for “a”, or “1” for “i”.
Second, we should be changing the passwords on a regular basis, preferably every six months.
Third, we need to keep our list of passwords in a safe place that is easy for us to remember where it is but hard for others to access. Keeping a “hidden” list under your computer keyboard is strongly discouraged. Yes, that may be convenient for you to access, but trust me; you won’t be the only person thinking to look there.
Fourth, the more recent option is to use a password management tool. Password managers make it easy for you to organize your passwords and keep them in a safe place. They can alert you to periodically change your passwords. They can also create complex passwords for you. There are a few trusted and secure password management software packages that many are using to help organize and maintain their passwords. The one to choose will be determined by personal preference. The main goal is to have a system that is easy to use so you will consistently use it. The only reason some of the software is more expensive than the others is that their platforms are more detailed and user-friendly. They all use AES-256 security encryption, a system used by the federal government to safeguard classified information.
Since Equifax announced their cyber-security breach last month, many have become concerned with the security of protecting their identity. As they should, seeing that approximately 145.5 million Americans have been victims of having their information accessed by cybercriminals. America is made up of roughly 330 million people total and a large percentage of that number consists of children under the age of 18 who do not have credit history available on Equifax. This means that the majority of us adults have had our personal information hacked.
So, what should our plan of action be?
There has been more awareness and use of credit motoring sites within the past month, most likely due to the breach. It is important to put effort into the research of which sites are trustworthy and actually monitor the information you need them to. Due to a lot of internet theft and scamming, be sure to know what services you are agreeing to, especially if you are being charged a fee.
Staying up to date on your credit history and score is imperative to protecting your identity. You should be checking your credit at least 3 times per year. This way, if you can detect fraudulent use of your credit and identity, the faster you can take proper steps to resolve the problem.
Dave Ramsey also gives the recommendation of what to do once you have found out your identity has been hacked. First, freeze your credit report accounts. Second, pull all 3 credit reports which include TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Third, look into identity theft protection or insurance. Dave recommends Zander for the insurance on identity theft.
If you have further questions on any of these items, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer your questions or point you to appropriate resources.