If you looked at your bank account balance expecting to see a big pile of cash and the balance was zero, what actions would you want to take? What sense of urgency would you have? Put another way, have you ever had the fire alarm go off next to where you sit? The loud blaring noise is insufferable. You do something, right? I want you to hold that mindset for what I’m about to tell you.
ALL IS NOT NORMAL
While on a work out session at the gym, something happened to my email account. When I returned to my computer, I received a wakeup call seeing some crazy messages in my inbox. Hackers exploited my Hotmail account because of a weak password. They somehow got access to my email account, used it to send out their spam email. They did not change the password. So luckily, I easily regained ownership of my account, changing the password, stopping them in their scheme.
I was used, determined to do something about it. They violated my good name and credibility to send my contacts their spam. Maybe this has happened to you. Because of this event, I know some of my contacts might question receiving email from me in the future. Fortunately, a couple colleagues quickly alerted me to the problem, realizing I wouldn’t solicit them with the type of spammy offer in their inbox. I suggest you notify your friends if you detect their email account has been violated. They will thank you for it.
WHAT TO DO NOW
Get a password safe or vault with the following attributes. The safe is a software application dedicated to storing your secret user name and password logins. Here is a site that compares several 2013 Password Management Software Products. It’s a partial list, but a starting point. They include RoboForm Everywhere, Sticky Password, Kaspersky Password Manager, DataVault, Handy Password Manager, SplashID Safe, Aurora Password Manager, TK8 Safe Pro, AnyPassword, and Password Agent.
- You and only you know its password to gain access
- It holds all the login credentials of the sites you visit
- It’s encrypted with AES 256-bit keys
- It’s synchronized across multiple devices in different locations
- You use passwords or phrases that are not guessable
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Use the same password in multiple places
- Use a guessable password
- Tell your trusted friend or partner your password
- Write them on paper or post-it notes
- Make an excel or text file on your computer called ‘passwords’ to store them
The good news is this episode motivated me to change some of my passwords because they were guessable and had a low level of complexity. They needed to be updated. If the bad guys guessed my password for email, I reasoned they might guess the password for my other accounts too. I noted the number and type of characters in the login passwords that I use on many sites. For the ones with weakness, I changed them, extending their length and complexity by using upper and lower letters, numbers, and characters. I am not using words that someone can guess. Further, I am not using the same password repeatedly on different sites.
There are no shortcuts for us. We need to be vigilant and take action here. Can you hear the alarm? Can you see the big pile of cash gone? When you use password management software, it’ll do two things: thwart hackers and criminals from compromising your most precious asset, your identity; and secondly, it’ll increase your confidence to set up and manage more trusted online accounts so you can take advantage of what’s great about the world wide web. The risk to your reputation of being digitally violated grows every day, and the delay of inaction using strong passwords and a manager is not worth taking chances.
For additional tips to contain the security risks of digital lifestyle, download my report: “18 Ways to Cut Risk of a Security Breach”
I welcome hearing your comments, stories and realizations that password management is serious. Perhaps you made a difference in someone’s life because you helped them realize they needed to manage their passwords better.