The news that hackers compromised millions of passwords on LinkedIn and Last.fm has made many businesses and individuals fearful of the repercussions of these incidents. These recent news stories have highlighted the need for improved password protection to keep cyber criminals at bay. Fortunately, three easy steps can significantly reduce risks to your password and make recovery from security breaches much easier.
Recovering from a compromised password can be less troublesome if you have taken steps to keep an accurate inventory of your online accounts and passwords. Many people have some passwords memorized and some scratched on random scraps of paper that they keep in various locations. If you are one of the people that would start rummaging through a wallet or desk space to collect the passwords to all of your accounts, you should take some time to get organized.
Step one is gathering together all of your online accounts and passwords. Instead of searching for these assets in a panic because an account has been jeopardized, be proactive and create a master list of accounts and passwords. This list should include all online shopping accounts, accounts with hobby sites and organizations, your online financial accounts, and more. Any account you sign into online should be included in your inventory. File this document in a secure manner, just as you would protect any valuable asset. Once you have a master list of accounts and passwords, you will be in a position to improve your password security and minimize risks to your account details.
Step two is to improve and update your passwords. Check your password list for any duplicates. Each account should have a unique password that is a random combination of characters to thwart easy detection. Change any duplicate passwords and improve any passwords that are obviously weak. For example, bankpass123 for your bank account is not a great password. Pick a word at random and add other characters to create more complicated passwords for better security.
Finally, put yourself on a schedule at least once per year to reset each password and make sure the account list is complete. You can time password changes with the changing seasons, your birthday, or regular dentist check ups. Matching an event with changing your passwords at least once per year is a step in the right direction to keep all accounts better protected. However, if you notice any unusual or suspicious activity related to any single account, immediately change the corresponding password and notify any third parties that may be affected.