Protect Your Passwords to Protect Your Privacy

password to access personal user data, cybersecurity concept(shutterstock/Song_about_summer)

Among the different ways to protect your privacy online, VPNs and cutting back on big tech products are the most common methods most people use. However, the basic building block of online security—passwords—can be the easiest way to safeguard online privacy for most people.

Passwords are a great way to only let authorized users access accounts. Passwords have evolved from their traditional text-based format and are now more sophisticated by design—including forms such as biometric authentication, physical security keys, two-factor authentication and even voice-based passwords.

While those methods have their advantages, having a strong password may be a primitive but very effective way to secure your online account. Below, we look at ways to protect your passwords for a better online experience.

Pick a strong password

You need a password for almost every online service, and managing them can be a hassle. Most people use elementary passwords that include chunks from their names, phone numbers and even use the same password for all accounts.

While this massively eases managing passwords, it also makes you highly vulnerable to hacking attempts. Professional password-pickers don’t even take minutes before they can crack into a six to eight-letter password with elements from your personal information.

That’s why choosing a solid password lays the foundation for a secure account. As a general rule of thumb, you should select a password with at least 12 characters, which shouldn’t include any of your personal information. The password should also have some lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers and special characters, making it much more difficult for any hacker to crack.

Use a password manager
Close-up of the Password Manager(shutterstock/OpturaDesign)

While setting up passwords like “134haksornso@#5&” can be beneficial, it is impractical to remember such passwords for all your accounts. That brings us to our second recommendation: You should definitely use password managers.

Password managers store and manage your passwords across all sites and offer various other benefits on top of it. You won’t need to type in your passwords, as password managers can quickly autofill your passwords. Most password managers also encrypt your password storage for better safety.

Many services, such as LastPass and 1Password, offer cross-platform support, letting you access all of the perks across devices. Some apps also recommend strong passwords for your accounts and encrypt them in their database for better online privacy.

Always use two-factor authentication
Two-Factor Authentication concept.Privacy protect data and cybersecurity.(shutterstock/Miha Creative)

If choosing strong passwords is your first line of defense, two-factor authentication (2FA) is the backbone of your online privacy. It adds an extra step between typing a correct password and entering your account. Almost all significant platforms offer the functionality to enable two-factor authentication for their users.

There are numerous forms of 2FA, and it can be as simple as answering a secret question only you should know, like a pet name or your favorite school teacher. On the other hand, it can also be more complex involving steps like OTP verification via text, email or both. For a cross-device solution, you can also choose one of the various 2FA clients such as Authy, Google Authenticator, etc. You may also opt to receive verification codes over email or SMS, but that is relatively less reliable.

Use biometrics as passwords wherever possible

Currently, biometric passwords are limited to a few financial apps and payment processing platforms, but they are easily the strongest way to secure your online accounts. Bypassing a biometrically secure account is next to impossible unless a hacker can physically access your biometrics. Not to mention, it completely eliminates the hassle of creating and remembering passwords.

Apple has also shown interest in biometric password management with Safari’s passwordless login system, called Passkeys. It will allow users to log into any website through the Safari browser with Touch ID or Face ID scans. The new passwordless login system is believed to be Safari’s biggest improvement in a long time and is available starting Safari 14 and above.

Avoid similar passwords
password management, password, mail, bank, facebook, message concept written post it on laptop keyboard.(shutterstock/Waniza)

Not using similar passwords—or the exact same one—seems like obvious advice for accounts with sensitive information, such as online banking. It also applies to all accounts in general. This advice is even more crucial if you don’t use automatically generated passwords or a password manager. Manually created passwords often have similar components for each account’s password, exposing multiple accounts to hackers.

You can imagine a security breach revealing one of your many passwords for an unimportant or disused account. Even though the compromised account might not have much information, the password can become a threat to all your other accounts. This is because password pickers need as much information about the target as possible to crack a password, and a password used with other accounts makes it a cakewalk.

A shared password leads to an easily compromised password. That’s a significant reason you should avoid sharing passwords, even for something as small as your Netflix account.

Some other methods of protecting your online privacy:

Other than these password-centric methods, here are a few habits to protect your online privacy:

  • Delete unused browser extensions and mobile apps regularly. Unused or old apps and extensions can always use the device’s resources for gathering information.
  • Don’t ignore software updates on any platform. Most software updates improve the device’s security features and protect it better against malware.
  • Clear browser cookies and browsing data frequently to get rid of unwanted trackers and search history.
  • Lastly, you can use a VPN while surfing the internet to mask your identity and ensure that no one tracks your online activities, especially if you do not wish to be tracked online.

Top-notch online privacy awaits

There are numerous ways to protect your online privacy but safeguarding your passwords is the safest and easiest method. For most people, using a password manager, enabling 2FA and not sharing password information should massively reduce the risk of a hacked account. Moreover, using biometric passwords is also a great way to protect yourself while eliminating the hassle of conventional password management.

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