The Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report revealed that 447 million consumer records were stolen throughout 2018. These records contained email addresses, passwords, social security numbers, and other types of personal information.
Data breaches have become a common occurrence, and these data breaches often result in users losing their accounts to hackers. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have an account hacked, you know firsthand just how terrifying the situation can be.
Account security stands above all else, so today, let’s go over a few ways you can improve the security of your accounts, from better passwords to data encryption.
Securing Your Accounts
Cybersecurity experts have led a successful push to convince corporations and developers to support some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA). For those out of the loop, MFA is a process that requires a user to verify their identity before they can log in to their account. Most websites use two-factor authentication, which typically requires a temporary, one-time passcode sent to a user’s email inbox or phone. However, some accounts may require extra steps, such as biometric authentication.
Multi-factor authentication is one of the best account security methods available—one you should take advantage of. Fortunately, most websites and programs support, if not require, users to enable MFA.
Strong, Unique Passwords
SecureAuth surveyed 2,000 consumers in the United States to get a general idea of the state of password security. Their survey revealed some shocking, scary results. Out of the 2,000 people surveyed, 53% admitted to reusing the same passwords for different accounts.
Password reuse is a significant problem for consumers, developers, employees, and employers—the list goes on. But reusing the same password across multiple accounts only increases the chances of those accounts suffering from a hack or data breach.
When creating an account, make sure you use a unique password. But making unique passwords for all of your accounts could quickly lead to confusion and forgetfulness. How is someone supposed to remember 10+ passwords? How do you know which password goes to which account? Well, you use a password manager.
Password managers gained a fair amount of traction in the mid-2010s. By then, the average internet user had to keep track of tens of accounts; they could either write down their passwords (an insecure form of password storage) or make their passwords simple to remember (also insecure).
Password managers represent a secure form of password storage. With one, users can store their account details in an organized “locker,” and any password stored in the said locker is hashed and encrypted to prevent password theft.
However, there is one caveat: accessing the locker requires you to enter your “master password.” Forgetting the master password could mean losing access to the password locker, but making the master password short and simple could compromise your password manager. In other words, never forget your master password.
How to Further Improve Account Security
Data encryption allows users to transfer data between their devices and networks with little worry about having said data stolen. However, not many people encrypt their data; the average internet user rarely bothers looking into encryption solutions.
A lack of encryption becomes a major issue when a user connects to a public network, networks that lack essential security features. If this user sounds like you, do yourself a favor and subscribe to a VPN service. A VPN will allow you to encrypt your data and ward off data thieves with ease.
Cybercriminals not only target data but purposefully corrupt and encrypt victims’ data. A common example is a ransomware, where the malware encrypts the victim’s hard drive(s) and then asks the victim for payment if they want their data back. Paying this fee, however, rarely achieves the desired result.
Backups—copies of your data—are essential to getting through such cyber-attacks with minimal damage. You can either backup your data to a cloud storage solution or purchase an external hard drive/SSD that you can backup your data to.
Account security is not a concept that can be brushed off. Users need to take care of their accounts, use strong passwords, and do everything they can to keep their data secure.