How safe is your password? That is the question on many people’s minds after nearly 5 million Gmail addresses and passwords were posted online last week. The list, which was posted on a Russian Bitcoin forum, is believed to consist of passwords acquired from phishing tactics or third-party websites. Many of the passwords were reportedly outdated or used for accounts on multiple websites. Google confirmed that their system was not breached.
This serves as an important reminder of how critical it is to be knowledgeable about online security. Password security is a top priority given the huge amount of sensitive information that is stored in our online accounts. If it’s been a while since you’ve thought about your online privacy, take a look at some of our tips on how to stay protected:
Be Aware of Phishing
Phishing is a fraudulent attempt to trick you into thinking you are communicating with a trusted source. Scammers will create emails from banks and other popular sites asking you to provide your private information. The email will most likely include a link that directs you to a fake website designed to collect your data. Oftentimes, these deceptive sites look exactly like the real website.
You can protect yourself from phishing attempts by never clicking a link in an email that’s requesting personal information. For example, if you receive an email that wants you to reset your bank account password, enter the bank’s web address directly in your browser instead.
Use Different Passwords
Create various passwords for your email, bank, social profiles, and other personal accounts. If a hacker steals your password for one site, then they cannot log in to your other accounts with the same password. If you don’t want the hassle of remembering dozens of different phrases, a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password can help.
Create Strong Passwords
A strong password includes upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers. Your password should contain 6 or more characters. Avoid using common dictionary words or phrases from your username, which make it easier for hackers to guess your password. Also, don’t include personal information like your name, birthday, or PIN.
Be Cautious Where you Log in
Be aware of how and where you access your accounts. If you’re using a public computer or public network, be sure to log out of your account when you’re done. Public computers, such as at the library, and unsecured networks, such as often available in coffee shops, bookstores, or hotels, are easy targets to steal your information. Avoid staying signed into your account unless it’s on a private computer that no one else has access to.
If your account was involved in the Gmail password leak, Google should already have notified you to change your password. The best ways to protect your information are to make sure your passwords are secure and to be aware of where you access your accounts. Stay updated on the latest data breaches to know when your information may be at risk.