If you can remember the passwords you use to secure your most sensitive financial information, if you use the same ones for multiple sites, or if you’ve written them down and stored them somewhere ‘safe’ (like the key under the mat), your data is at risk. According to Centrify, a leader in cyber-security, 81% of computer data breaches come through hacked passwords. “Cyber criminals find the path of least resistance to their target, and today that path leads straight from users with self-managed ‘simple factor’ passwords.
Simple passwords used to be acceptable security in the early days of the Internet, but today’s cyber-crooks are far better at obtaining and cracking our user credentials than we are at creating complex credentials that we can memorize. So what can we do?
Fortunately the good guys have created some powerful lines of defense. The first is known as the Password Manager and happily adding it will not further complicate your life (after getting it set up). In fact, it will not only demonstrably improve your online security, it will actually make your online sign-ons easier and faster.
We did our own research of the top providers, but were swayed by a blog written by David Pierce of the Wall Street Journal in which he recommended four of the best in his research. We went with DashLane. It is the most expensive in the bunch, but met all of our needs and was reasonably easy to set up.
A password manager stores all of your passwords in a highly encrypted state in the cloud, making them available on any device you add. Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and other browsers include their own password savers, but they only work where you use that browser and most don’t work natively on your phone, tablet, or watch like the managers do.
With a password manager, you need remember only one complex password to authorize the manager to provide the correct user id and password for the site you want to visit. DashLane provides a handy dashboard of all your websites. Type a few letters of the site you want to visit into the search bar, tap the site’s icon, and in most cases, voila, you are past security and safely interacting with your information before you can say ‘take that you crooks!’
Your online experience is not only easier with a password manager, but more importantly, much safer. Dashlane’s Identity Dashboard provides a critical analysis of the ongoing health of your passwords. My starting score five months ago was in the low 50’s. As I started removing duplicated passwords, adding complexity from something like sams1strongpassword! to &na?kH9E;X5#Ha=Df34CQS}U#|wU , and replaced passwords that had been compromised by sites like Facebook, my score started improving. For the record, the 4 accounts referenced on the right are websites that have no critical information and are not connected in any way to sites that do. But I’ll fix them soon.
The really good password managers even check the dark web for compromise of things like passwords, logins, emails, credit cards, phone numbers or addresses that can be purchased by bad actors. Some providers provide premium packages that provide Identity Theft Insurance, Credit Monitoring, and Identity Restoration.
Another risk to your data and credentials is posed by surfing public WiFi connections. It’s so nice to log onto the WiFi in your favorite coffee shop, hotel, or spend some time surfing while waiting for your next flight. Problem is, its just as easy for the bad guys to collect your login information through a technique known as ‘traffic monitoring.’ Their specialized software notifies the hacker that someone – you – have just entered login information into an application or website. Here, even varying your passwords, or having complicated ones will not protect you.
DashLane and others provide a handy tool for safe and secure web browsing on public WiFi networks. It is known as VPN, for Virtual Private Network. If, when you check the address line in your browser and you do not see an s in the https:// to the far left, you do not have a secure connection. VPN converts your public connection into an encrypted secure pipe all of your own that will defeat traffic monitoring and snooping.
Another layer of security is provided by what is known as dual factor or multi-factor authentication (DFA and MFA). You should be sure that all sites that store your sensitive data require it. Multi-factor authentication methods require a second or even a third layer of challenges once you have signed in with your credentials. The challenges may consist of questions only you know the answer to, a code that is sent to your email or phone to provide entry, or a separate device that generates a number/code as a one-time password.
Instant access to our data, shopping, and entertainment comes with grater risks than ever before so we must adapt to preserve our privacy. Thankfully the tools available to do that are evolving both in their robustness and their ease of use. We do all we can to protect your data at Beacon and want to help you with information stored away from us as well. Please give us a call if we can help.