Cyber-terrorism is a growing threat and a frequent news topic. The things we are reading about the capabilities of hackers are truly frightening, but in reality most of us face a more direct threat from identity thieves and scammers. And all too frequently, we make it easy for them.
As more and more people are conducting business online, from purchasing concert tickets to banking, it has become common to have accounts on dozens of websites, which require usernames and passwords. We have all been told not to, but it is very tempting to use a common username and password for every website on which we have a membership or conduct business. Who can remember dozens of unique passwords? Additionally many of us like to use easy to remember passwords, like our birth month or the name of a child. Again, who wants to try to remember some odd combination of numbers and letters every time they sign on to their Facebook account?
It is understandable, but by using common and easy to remember passwords for our online memberships and business accounts we are exposing ourselves to a high risk of identity theft and fraud. Just think of how much personal information we freely share with friends and relatives on social networking sites, or how many sites we have elected to store our credit card information so we don’t have to bother typing it in every time. If you’re using one username and password for multiple websites, a hacker could easily access a wealth of information about you that could be used to steal your identity or access your credit cards or bank accounts.
We recommend to our clients that they use unique usernames and passwords composed of both letters and numbers for every website that they use. They should record this information on a document that they keep in a password protected file, or even better, on a document that they keep in a locked drawer. Recording this information on an easily accessible Word document does not offer protection from hackers and, in fact, compiles all the information they need into one convenient source.
Using easy usernames and passwords is like leaving your front door to your home unlocked. There are other ways that thieves can get in, but an unlocked door is practically an invitation. Using unique usernames and passwords is just one of many steps that we can take to protect ourselves, but it is an easy one that provides the first barrier against a potential intruder.