Data breaches are becoming the norm. From Zappos to Playstation Network to Global Payments to LinkedIn, it seems like there’s another one every day. There really is a black market for your data: the Identity Theft Assistance Center reports that 8.1 million adults in the U.S. suffered identity theft in 2011, each of whom lost an average of $4,607.
That’s why you need to start protecting yourself now from the next big data breach.
Whenever there’s a breach, your risk is significantly higher if you’ve reused your username and password combination on other accounts and sites. Here are 4 tips to help protect your accounts from being compromised.
1. CHANGE YOUR INFORMATION ON THE BREACHED ACCOUNT
It seems obvious, but if you only do one thing, this should be it. Was your password compromised? Make a new one. Was your credit card stolen? Cancel it.
Password strength is combination of length, content, and change frequency. In general, longer passwords with a wider variety of capitalization, letters, numbers, and symbols are the most secure, and the more often you change them, the better. The harder it is for others to guess, the safer it is. A few examples of notoriously common (and therefore bad) passwords:
- your first or last name
3. USE THIS SIMPLE TIP TO CREATE STRONG, UNIQUE PASSWORDS YOU CAN ALWAYS REMEMBER
Here’s a pro-tip for remembering all your login information. You’ll create a strong base password that you know you’ll remember, then apply a rule to it that will make slight variations of that password for each site where you register. The result: a unique password for all your accounts. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say your base password is AbinePrivacyRocks!@#! You’ll then make a rule that you’ll apply consistently whenever you make a password. One example of a rule: you’ll take the first letter of the site name and add it to the end of your base password. If you’re signing up for Facebook, for example, you’d add the “F” from Facebook and end up with AbinePrivacyRocks!@#!F.
As long as you remember your base password and the fact that you add the new letter at the end, you’ll be able to remember all your passwords on every site you use. Just be sure to never tell anyone either your base password or your rule.
4. IF YOU’VE REUSED YOUR COMPROMISED LOGIN INFO ON OTHER SITES, CHANGE THEM
A 2003 survey found that 65% of us use the same password for different applications or services. We’re only human; we can’t keep hundreds of different username and password combinations in our heads at all times. But in our effort to try to keep things simple, we expose ourselves to a great deal of risk. Think about it: a spammer who discovers your password on, say, Facebook, can then access all the other sites where you use it: PayPal, your online banking site, your phone service, your email, and everywhere else.
We recommend using your password creation rule, described above, to make new passwords on all your accounts. Start with the most important ones (like email, online banking, shopping, and social networks), and move on from there.
We hope you found these tips helpful. Good luck, and stay private!