So, you have the most outrageous passwords you can think of — like [email protected]$oNFir3 or kings4lyf88 — for all your online accounts and keep them all to yourself. Great job, but you can definitely do better.
Parisa Tabriz is Google’s very own Security Princess, and she believes a strong password is only the start of fortifying your online defenses. As the company’s white hat hacker, she finds bugs in the company’s security system and reports all her findings before black hat hackers take advantage. Think of her as being a Gandalf the White to the all black hat Saurons out there.
She recently shared her top tips for making sure no one gets into your precious Gmail or Facebook profile, and while these may seem trivial, you’d be surprised by how neglected these pieces of advice actually are. Check ‘em out:
Don’t reuse or share the same password across multiple accounts
I admit to being guilty of this one myself. When you have such a hard-to-decrypt password you believe no one could figure, it’s only natural to think it’s good enough for everything. Wrong! We already failed the first step, my friends.
Tabriz suggests using a password manager to keep a tab on every password you use for each website or service. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why would I leave my most valuable assets in the hands of a third-party company? I have the same concern to be honest. Although most password managers are secure to the core, you can also choose to write down each one on paper and tuck it away in a locked drawer. Traditional means for digital problems? Consider it solved!
Don’t log in on shared computers and do use two-step authentication
While you sometimes can’t help but log in on a public computer or shared work laptop to check emails or access your cloud services, doing so isn’t recommended. Keyloggers and malware can record passwords you type and send them to a hacker’s database. They’re difficult to detect and are mostly unavoidable.
If you really must use a computer that isn’t your own, spend some time to at least activate two-step authentication for all your online accounts. This ensures that a message with an additional code will be sent to your mobile number or other inbox when someone (including yourself) attempts to log in with the correct password. Just make sure to add extra protection on your smartphone in case someone gets a hold of it; that would already ruin one out of the two security measures!
Watch out for sketchy software and apps installed on your computer and phone
This is something lots of people are prone to doing, and it’s like self-sabotage. To put it simply, don’t download apps from suspicious websites; don’t download pirated software; do use Safe Browsing while on Google’s Chrome browser; and keep your antivirus programs constantly on the lookout for threats.
If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, be sure to grab apps only from their official sources (e.g., Google Play and Apple’s App Store). As for computers, be smart; being on a highly vulnerable Windows (and sometimes macOS) operating system is deadly enough. If anything seems out of order, look back at all the recent software you installed, whether intentional or not, and look them up online to see if they’re malicious in any way.
Keep your system up to date
Fortunately, most software and operating systems nowadays enable auto-updates by default. As annoying and bandwidth-consuming as they are, having the newest firmware for your smart device and patches for your apps somewhat guarantees you won’t be susceptible to the latest vulnerabilities and holes hackers have discovered.
Tabriz reminds us how controversial the Chrome browser’s auto-update function used to be, mostly due to its constant design changes and unwanted features, but it’s now universally accepted and has become the standard for all other software. So, if you’re about to complain about yet another forced restart from Windows 10 after an update, just think of it as a necessary precaution — you never know who might be watching your computer this very moment.
Bonus: Read/watch the news
While on the topic of online security, I must add my own tip: update yourself with the latest news on mass hackings and data leaks. As soon as you find out one of your online services was compromised, change your password and review what could have been stolen at the very least. Some hacks could lead to a simple outage, but others may put half-a-billion users at risk.