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November 14, 2019 Fraud Prevention Joshua Williams

The Importance of a Strong Password Around the Holidays (and Everyday!)

The holidays are upon us. That means giving and receiving new devices, using a variety of online services, and creating new login credentials. This also means that cyber criminals are ramping up their efforts to steal your information. While this should be top of mind all year round, it’s time to be extra careful with password use and data protection.

The majority of online users still use old-school password methods to access their accounts. To keep your login information safe you have to remain one step ahead of potential hackers and identity thieves. The best way to do that is by starting with secure login credentials.

How to Stay Secure

Stop using common, easy-to-figure-out passwords. That’s it. The reality is that with more advances in technology comes more advances in ways to steal your information. Identity thieves spend ALL their time coming up with new ways to exploit weaknesses in programs designed to protect you. That’s all they do. So why make it easy on them?

How to Create a Strong Password

  • Length – There is no minimum length that experts agree upon but generally 12-14 characters is a good start. Even though it makes it tougher to remember, the longer the better.
  • Creativity – Use three random words that no one can easily guess or relate back to you. For example “BirdGrassElevator”. Also consider adding a few special characters, which many systems require now. For example “Bird!Grass_Elevator*”. Avoid using kids/pets/spouses names, phone numbers and words that can obviously be linked to you such as “BasketballCoach978”.
  • Phrases – Avoid common phrases like “ILoveyou” or “GoPatriots” that are easy to guess.
  • Repetition – Do not use the same password for multiple logins. If someone hacks one of your accounts, that person now has a key component to gaining access to your other accounts.
  • Leet (1337) – Leet is a system based on modifying word spellings by replacing letters with numbers. For example “W0rk3rs”. Sounds sneaky, right? Unfortunately, hackers can easily figure out these common numerical replacements, so you shouldn’t rely on this as your only means for a strong password.
  • Resets & Multi-Factor Authentication – Don’t use your email address to reset a password, receive a temporary passcode or for multi-factor authentication. If a hacker has your email credentials they can reset and change the password. Instead, use the text option for your cell phone number. That way you know you are receiving the code. With Workers digital banking, we only offer text for multi-factor authentication to better assist with keeping your information safe.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication method in which a computer user is granted access only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence (or factors) to an authentication mechanism: knowledge (something the user and only the user knows), possession (something the user and only the user has), and inherence (something the user and only the user is).

Aggregators and Security

An aggregator is a website or app that is used to collect data from multiple accounts so you can interact with them in one place. For example, compiling bank, credit card, loan, and utility service accounts to either help you budget your finances or negotiate lower payoff amounts with your provider. These products can be super helpful when trying to better your financial wellness. However, the catch is that all of your account information is now centralized and accessible in one location. That is why it is extremely important to follow the guidelines set for a strong password when using an aggregator service. If you create a strong password for only one login, this is the one!

The Future of Passwords and Security

There has to be a better way, right? Eventually it will be near impossible to create a password that no one can crack. As hard as we work to keep them secure, hackers and identity thieves are working just as hard to steal them. So what are some potential solutions?

  • Biometrics – A technique that uses a unique physical characteristic that can be used to identify an individual. These technologies already exist like facial recognition and fingerprint and iris scans. We are already using them to an extent with devices like smart phones, tablets, and accessing homes and automobiles. Further development could replace the need for usernames and passwords entirely.
  • Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) – Data analytics can be used to track patterns and predict normal versus abnormal behavior. Eventually, this technique could be used to track your log in behavior and predict whether or not it is actually you that is signing in with your device. This technology is still in the infancy stage of development but be on the lookout for future applications.

It’s always a good time to reevaluate your current passwords. Are they strong enough? Are you at risk for potential hacking and identity theft? Have you learned some new techniques for creating a strong password? If you find that your current passwords aren’t as strong as they could be, don’t waste time, change your passwords today. For more tips on keeping your information safe, visit the Fraud Prevention section of our blog.