Technology can seem like a never-ending, constantly changing topic that you’ll never master. There’s always a new device, and it often seems like as soon as you buy it, there’s a new model to replace it. It can get exhausting quickly, especially for seniors who aren’t really big fans of change anyway.
One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the need for security online. In fact, more seniors are being targeted by online scams and hacks than ever before. While seniors have long been targets of mail and phone scams, the online world is being used by hackers to gain personal information, steal identities, and worse. A study in 2015 found that senior living communities are prime targets for hackers, who can find financial information on file for residents.
Seniors aren’t the only people being hacked, however. Kids with social media accounts are also targeted – and not just by hackers looking for financial information.
How can you fight what seems to be a losing battle while still being able to use your computer? One answer is a secure password.
What’s a Secure Password?
You might be thinking that you already have a secure password – it’s your favorite sports team, or the town you stayed in for family vacations. It might be your grandchild’s name or birthday. Unfortunately, all of these are incredibly weak passwords, easily hacked by someone looking to steal your information.
Any password that uses a detail about you can probably be found with a little digging. If you use social media, it becomes even easier. Over time, people end up sharing a great deal of information about themselves on Facebook. Photos of family, check-ins at various locations, a mention by a family member about that great vacation, or even well-meaning birthday wishes from friends on your page can offer a wealth of information to a hacker. Making your page private doesn’t help – there are plenty of tools that allow hackers to see your page even if they aren’t on your friends list.
A secure password, then, needs to be something that has nothing to do with details about you, your family, or your life. It needs to have special characters like % or $, and it needs to have numbers and letters. It is easy to guess “Houston1,” for instance – but a password that’s “$had7Hsdnwo”? Not so much.
I Made a Secure Password – Now What?
If you’ve made a secure password, you’re probably ready to start changing your accounts over to the new data. There’s just one problem – reusing your password on more than one account is a bad idea, and here’s why.
Let’s say all of your accounts – from email to banking – have the same password. Even if it’s a secure one, if a hacker manages to get their hands on that password, everything you have is now wide open.
“But wait!” you might be thinking. “You just said secure passwords are impossible to guess!” That’s true – but there’s another wrinkle in the fabric, and it’s called a data breach. That’s when a company’s user database and information – your information – gets leaked onto the internet after a hack. In the last few years, many companies have seen their private data leaked, due to either their own poor security practices or malicious hackers. Sometimes those leaks include their users’ email, address and phone number, or even passwords and credit card information.
If one company you do business or have an account with gets hacked and your password is released, any other account using that password can also be accessed. So it’s important that each account has its own secure password.
You’re probably wondering how on earth you’re supposed to remember a bunch of gibberish, non-sensical passwords. That’s where the password manager comes in.
Using a Password Manager
A password manager does exactly what it sounds like. It is a program that generates and stores passwords for you so that you don’t have to remember them all. All you’ll need to remember is one password – the one to get into the manager program.
Another benefit of the password manager is that it will generate secure passwords for you as you create new accounts, so you don’t have to come up with random strings of characters yourself. Since the program is creating and storing the passwords for you, when you get to a login page for one of your accounts, all you need to do is have the program automatically paste the password into the page for you.
There are several good – and free – password managers out there. A few of them include LastPass, KeePassX, and 1Password. Each of these programs allows you to log into sites with a single click – no hassle, no remembering passwords, and no worries about whether your accounts are at risk because of a weak password.
Regardless of how many or how few accounts you have – or how old you are – online security is important. The first step to helping yourself and your family to stay safe is to make sure your account passwords are secure.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!