a user reusing passwords

Why You Must Stop Reusing Passwords

We’ve all done it. And most of us won’t think twice before doing it again. I’m an IT Technician and even I’m guilty of this poor password practice. Yes, I am guilty of reusing passwords.  But here is why I won’t do it again, and why you shouldn’t either.

Reusing passwords on multiple accounts may seem harmless enough, an easy way to remember your logins for multiple websites. And I’m sure you agree that we all have too many logins to remember. But, reusing passwords is dangerous because it increases your risk of financial fraud or identity theft.

Most internet users will never notice they’ve had their account hacked, had money drained from their accounts or had their identity stolen until it’s too late. After all, many cyberattacks are unobtrusive and designed to escape detection. Most hackers seek to harvest your information as quickly as possible without being noticed.

Remember, you’ll go through most of your time on the internet without ever being compromised, but it only takes one time to suffer the painful outcomes of being hacked.

So please allow me to explain how using the same password on multiple accounts can increase your risk of financial loss or identity fraud.

Why would someone want to hack my email?

Fair question. Most of us can’t imagine why anyone would want to hack us, especially our low value email account.  Well, because, it helps them gain a foothold in to your digital world.

Chances are, you’ve been on the internet for many years now. By now, you’ve noticed most sites require some sort of registration process which involves creating a username and password. You’ve gotten so accustomed to filling in these details, a mundane task, that you’ve subconsciously eliminated any danger associated with filling in online forms, and by association, by reusing passwords on multiple online forms.  A little copy and paste, or reusing your one trusty password – what’s the harm?  This is where the waters get muddy.  Ask yourself:

  • Do you remember all the sites you’ve used the same password on?
  • How reputable are these sites?
  • Do owners of these sites frequently update their security protocols?
  • Are any of these sites often targeted by hackers?
  • How could a hacker gain more insight into your personal digital world with access to any one of these accounts?

If one site is hacked and some of your personal information is taken, it makes it easier to hack into more of your accounts. Especially if you’ve reused a password.

Hackers know that the more info they can gather on you, the more likely it is they can successfully defraud you. Don’t help them in any way. Use separate passwords for every account.

If you are advised that one account is compromised, immediately change your password on it and any important accounts as well. For example, if your email was hacked, now is a good time to also change your banking password, just to be safe.

If any one of your accounts is hacked, immediately change passwords on all your accounts. #computertip Click To Tweet

Network security professionals are constantly pushing out updates to help fight cyberattacks and keep the internet safe. It’s a relentless battle. Some servers are better protected than others. Some hackers target certain services more than others. Like links in a chain of information, it only takes one poorly secured site or account to be hacked.

And if you’re wondering what the heck these hackers have to gain from your email account, the answer is money. There are many spamware and malware viruses they can purchase or create and then distribute through your account to make money for themselves. Some of this spyware attempts to collect your personal information. Some sends more spam and malware links out. Sometimes they bide time to collect more info from your email account in order to attempt to hack into your bank account.

On average, as reported by security experts in 2015, the ROI for cybercriminals is 1425%.

That is a big return, and powerful motivation for these criminals. So, by now, I hope you’re asking yourself, “What can I do to prevent my account from being hacked?”

What can I do to prevent my email from being hacked?

You can do your small part to help protect your account from hackers. Here are a few simple but helpful password practices you can implement right away.

  1. Stop reusing passwords. It’s straightforward and the title of this article but I can’t overly stress the importance of this good password habit.
  2. Change your passwords regularly. It’s important to periodically change your passwords, as the age of a password is a factor in the likelihood that the password is cracked.
  3. Use strong passwords. Avoid passwords that relate to your username. Avoid passwords that can be easily guessed and opt for random words or phrases. Avoid passwords that only contain letters of the alphabet. It’s highly recommended to incorporate letters, numbers and symbols in all of your password.
  4. Consider using a password manager. Password managers are secured master accounts that that store all of your login credentials including usernames and passwords allowing you to use one centralized password for all your logins. Password managers have some shortcomings, which I address in this post.

Sometimes the simplest advice is the most effective, but also the most difficult to execute.

We all know that diet and exercise are the best prevention for obesity and many illnesses. We all know that getting enough sleep aids in cognitive functions and general wellbeing. But we all need the regular reminders because we’re all a little (or a lot) sleep deprived, or eating yet another take out meal, just as we’re all guilty of reusing passwords. So this is your reminder. You’re welcome!

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