October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to improve your online security. Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2015 Identity Fraud Study found that someone is a victim of identity fraud every two seconds. Identity theft is scary, and no one wants it to happen to them. In fact, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), 54 percent of Americans are extremely concerned about loss of personal or financial information. What can you do to protect yourself? Often, you’re most vulnerable online. The public already knows this; 96 percent of Americans already feel a personal responsibility to be safer and more secure online (NCSA). People clearly want to increase their security, but are confused about how to do so.
A common way crooks try to steal personal information is by hacking in to personal password-protected websites, like your online banking portal, email service, or social media accounts. The NCSA found that 72 percent of Americans believe their accounts are secure with only usernames and passwords. However, they may be mistaken.
Very strong passwords can help make accounts more secure. The FTC says to avoid common words, phrases, or information – your password should be long, complex and unique. However, some businesses and agencies are now recommending using ‘passphrases’, which must be between 16-64 characters in length. These longer passwords, which could be in the form of simple sentences, are easier to remember than a random combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Additionally, they’re just as hard for a computer to guess.
However, these days, accounts need more than just a password to be secure: even if you have an extremely strong password, someone could steal it through keylogging, a data breach, or a computer hacking program. To combat this issue, the NCSA partnered with the White House, Better Business Bureau, and many others to launch the “Lock Down Your Login” campaign.
This campaign hopes to combat fraud by encouraging the use of more secure two-factor authentication (2FA). According to Bill Fanelli, chief security officer with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, “2FA means using any two of something you know (such as a password or PIN); plus something you have (a phone, a USB security key), or something you are (fingerprint, facial recognition). To add two-factor authentication to your phone, you can use a fingerprint (something you are) and a PIN (something you know). To access your email, you can put in a password (something you know) and receive a text message with a code to enter (this proves you have your phone).”
Although it takes a little more time, two-factor authentication is easy to set-up and is one of the best ways to improve your cyber security. At lockdownyourlogin.com, you can find easy instructions for setting up 2FA on dozens of different backup, cloud, business, email, finance, gaming, health, shopping, and social media websites and services.
Activating 2FA, as well as having strong passwords, can help protect you from identity theft and scammers. It’s also important to remember to never share your passwords with anyone – whether it be with family and friends, or someone who calls or emails you asking for it. Your personal information is extremely valuable, and you should protect it accordingly.