Underwear and Passwords Have Something in Common

Almost anything you do online these days requires a password. Eric Griffin, who wrote for PC Mag online said, "Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often.”

This is a vitally important message for older adults. More than 75% of people aged 65 and older are now online, which creates more opportunities for hackers to access personal accounts. To keep online accounts secure, follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau (BBB):

Think of passwords as walls

A password should be considered a wall between free access to your personal information and the world. The stronger the wall, the more difficult it will be for others to break down.

Avoid weak passwords

A weak password is one that is easy to guess. Commonly used passwords are your pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name, the town you grew up in, your birthday, your anniversary, etc. This is information that scammers can easily find online. A strong password will have at least 12 to 14 characters, mixed with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Use creative passwords

Running low on ideas? Try using song lyrics. It is virtually impossible for hackers to guess what song you are using. Guessing lyrics is even harder.

Use a “passphrase”

Instead of using a single word, use a phrase that is relatively long, around 20 characters, and includes random words, numbers, and symbols. Think of something that you will be able to remember but others won’t be able to guess, such as ChartreusePunch$245Par$nip!.

Use more than one password

While it may be easier to remember one password for every account, it’s much easier for hackers to break down one wall rather than multiple walls. Create a unique password for every account you use, including online shopping accounts, banking accounts, health insurance accounts, email accounts, and many others

Use multi-factor authentication

This is usually a two-step process which requires both your password and an additional piece of information upon logging in. The second step is generally a code sent to your phone or a random number generated by an app or token. This will protect your account even if your password is compromised.

Consider a password manager

A written list works, but if you’re worried about losing it, type up an electronic list and label it as something other than "passwords.” Avoid keeping the list on your device, as it will only make it easier for the thief to access the apps and personal data stored on it. A password management app is another good option.

Select security questions only you know the answer to

Many security questions ask for answers to information available in public records or online, like your zip code, mother’s maiden name, and birthplace. That is information a motivated attacker can easily obtain. Don’t use questions with a limited number of responses that attackers can easily guess.

Wi-Fi is a security concern as well. Check your device settings before surfing the web.

  • Check the validity of available Wi-Fi hotspots. Hackers will set up fake hotspots that have names of stores or institutions you might trust.
  • Make sure all websites you use have "HTTPS" at the beginning of the web address.
  • Install an app add-on that forces your web browsers to use encryption when connecting to websites.

If you received a notification from a company about a possible data breach, it is always a good idea to change that password and any similar passwords immediately.