How to use passwords to protect your finances
Passwords and strong authentication are like keys to your home but online. Do everything possible to prevent people from gaining access to your password. Strong passwords can be inconvenient, but they’re critical if you want to keep your personal and financial information safe. Below are some simple tips to secure your accounts through better password practices.
Ensure passwords are long, unique, and complex
Whether it’s your online banking or social media account, all passwords should be created with these three words in mind:
- Long – Your password should be at least 12 characters long.
- Unique – It’s easier said than done, but avoid reusing passwords. Each of your accounts needs a unique passphrase.
- Complex– Combine upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Some websites will even let you include spaces.
Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you will remember but also use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use sequential letters or numbers, like “qwerty” or “1234.”
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to constantly change your passwords. The National Institute of Standards and Technology recommends against frequent password changes in their Digital Identity Guidelines. Just remember to change your password if there is unauthorized access to your account or if it is part of a data breach.
Use a password manager
As our lives expand while we do more online, we’ve gone from having a couple of passwords to today, where we might manage upwards of 100 or more passwords. If you’re like most people, you’re probably using the same passphrase for most of your accounts—and that’s not safe. Around 66% of Americans use the same password across multiple accounts, which can be detrimental to your personal or financial information. If your passphrase gets stolen because of a breach, it can be used to gain access to all your accounts and your sensitive information. But no need to fret—password managers are easy to use and make a big difference.
How does a password manager work?
The best way to manage unique passphrases for the ever-increasing amount of online accounts we own is through a password manager application. A password manager is a software created to manage your online credentials like usernames and passwords. It stores them in an encrypted database and generates new passphrases when needed.
Because the password manager stores all your passwords, you don’t need to memorize login information or keep that secret password paper in your drawer. Now, you only need to remember one password to unlock your vault in the manager app, making things seamless.
What are the advantages of a password manager?
Easy to use
Password managers save time and are easy to use because you need to memorize one password, which makes them easily accessible and quick to load.
Protects your identity
Using the same passphrase across accounts poses a security risk. With a password manager, you’re more likely to use unique, complex passwords for each application. Some password managers will also generate and store secure passwords for you.
Most password managers are compatible with mobile devices, allowing you to access your passwords on the go. Many phones also feature a built-in manager, like iCloud Keychain.
What are the disadvantages of a password manager?
Single point of failure
One significant disadvantage of a password manager is because your accounts can be accessed via a single, strong password, there is a potential risk of your password manager being hacked. While using a password manager, multi-factor authentication is imperative to keeping your data safe.
You’re not protected from everything
While password managers help protect your passwords, they don’t prevent other attacks, like phishing, malware, or keyloggers. Even if you use a password manager, follow best practices and don’t click, open, or download any suspicious links or files. Remember, Georgia’s Own will never ask you for sensitive information via email or text message, such as your account number, Social Security number, or password.
Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your personal and financial information. Using a strong passphrase and a password manager are just a couple of ways to safeguard your sensitive information from fraudsters. This is part three of an 11-part series on cybersecurity and how you can protect yourself online in today’s digital age. For more educational tools and tips, visit our resource center.