You’d think that after the slew of celebrity hacks in the past few years, we’d all have long ago upgraded security on our online accounts.
But with high-profile hijackings of accounts owned by Katy Perry, Mark Zuckerberg and others in just the past several days, it’s clearly a lesson many of us still need to learn. For instance, one recent survey found that 61% of people admitted to reusing passwords across multiple accounts, a risky behavior since it could give hackers who steal your information amid a data breach at one site, access to your other accounts. (That’s what reportedly happened to Zuckerberg.) And while celebrities face potential embarrassment when their accounts are hacked, you could end up the victim of a financial crime too, with everything from your frequent flyer miles to your health insurance up for grabs.
The good news is there are some relatively simple steps you can take to dramatically lowering the odds you’ll get into serious trouble.
Strengthen your password
The more logical your password is — think your birthday or address — the easier it is for sophisticated thieves to steal. The trick is to use nonsensical seeming passwords that are still easy to remember. Fortunately, there are tricks to help you do this. Check out this graphic from MONEY’s April 2014 issue.
Set-up Two-Factor Authentication
In addition to a strong password, many popular sites also offer an extra measure of security, known as two-factor authentication. In essence this means anytime you log onto the site from a new device like a phone or a laptop, you will also need to provide an authentication code in addition the password. The process makes it difficult for would-be thieves to breach your accounts — unless they steal some of your hardware in addition to your passwords. Not sure how to set up two-factor authentication? Here’s an explanation form WIRED.
Use Different Passwords
In addition to these steps, Mashable points out, you want to make it as difficult as possible for a thief who steals your password for one site, to use it again. In theory, that means choosing a different password for every site you log onto. Since that might not be practical, you can lean on a so-called password manager. Services such as LastPass and Dashlane can help automate the process, although by keeping all your passwords in one place you heighten the risk losing your one, master password.