In one of the biggest online security breaches of all time, email addresses and passwords of millions of eBay users were compromised earlier this year. While it’s still unclear whether the hackers can break the password encryptions, eBay is now enforcing password changes for all users.
Naturally, this raises a serious question – just how safe is your data in the cloud? “Online security is only as good as you make it,” says Dan Fairbairn from software training and implementation provider Waypoint.
“The only thing keeping your online accounts safe is your password, and the simple fact is that you can no longer get away with the old favourite – password123,” explains Dan. “As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the hackers.”
With phishing, identity theft and other internet crimes increasing in frequency, there’s a lot at stake. When your password is in someone’s possession, they can steal your money and erase your valuable digital assets, so it pays to be vigilant.
Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your personal information safe online.
- Change your passwords
When a service gets hacked, you don’t just need to change that password, you should change your password on any service where you’ve used the same. In light of eBay’s recent security breach, now is a good time to change your passwords across the board.
Online passwords are used for everything from email and shopping accounts to website subscriptions, so depending on the type of account and how regularly you use the internet, how often you need to change your password will differ. It certainly doesn’t hurt to change your password on a regular basis – say every three to six months.
- Make a strong password
The longer and more random your password, the harder it is to discover. Choose a word no-one knows or would be able to guess, and combine your chosen word with a selection of numbers or letters. For extra security, make it case sensitive by including both lower and uppercase letters.
- Use a different password across every site
If someone is smart enough to work out your password, chances are they can track your activity and access other accounts where you’ve used the same password or similar.
- Use a password manager
Changing passwords is time consuming, not to mention coming up with new combinations and keeping track of them across various accounts. Fairbairn says there are several online password managers available that are brilliant for business, in particular Dashlane – an app that team members at Waypoint have used for several years. 1Password and LastPass are popular alternatives.
“A decent password manager should do at least three simple things,” Dan explains. “Obviously it should save your passwords. It should also provide access from any webpage or mobile device, and it should generate passwords for you.”
According to Dan, this third option offers the greatest advantage. When visiting a new webpage, users simply select ‘sign up’, and Dashlane creates a secure alphanumeric password with one more click of the mouse. The password is then saved for next time you visit the website. Dashlane also saves personal information, enabling users to fill out forms quickly and easily.
With the rise of cloud software, the days of keeping documents, photos and music on your hard drive are numbered. But whilst the cloud offers convenience, it also places your financial information and other personal details at risk. Fortunately, hackers are usually after the most information for the least amount of effort, so by creating passwords that are difficult to hack and changing them regularly, you’re doing the best you can to keep your accounts and your data secure.