Spread the (pass)word


By Camron Owens

If your Facebook experience is like mine, you’ve probably received a message at some point from one of your friends saying something like “Hey! You won’t believe this photo I found of you!” with a link to a strange web address. It’s also possible that you could have been the victim of one of these account intrusions. In most cases, this means either you or your friend’s account has been hacked.

Even if you aren’t on Facebook or haven’t had one of your accounts hacked, you are probably aware of the growing number of companies that have been hacked in recent years including Target, Sony Pictures and even precious Jimmy John’s. 

One way people gain access to accounts is through passwords. Even though good passwords should include different letters, symbols and numbers, it is nearly impossible to come up with a memorable word or phrase that fits all of these requirements.

It seems easy to believe that our accounts are secure and that hackers won’t target one of our accounts, but because of this belief, we might not be as careful as we should be.

To combat potential future dangers, we should all take a few easy steps to make sure that our accounts are secure online, and a main way we can do this is through forms of password protection. After all, it would be quite problematic if our NetID or University ID information we use to log into University websites was compromised, especially since these accounts contain important personal and academic information. With that in mind, I’ve comprised a list of four ways people can make their accounts safer.

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 1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Ice Cube probably wasn’t talking about online safety when he recorded “Check Yo Self,” but the message of the song is very relevant to the topic. It’s possible that your current passwords are very secure and difficult to hack, but you can make sure by going to the website howsecureismypassword.net. Enter in your passwords to see how long it would take a desktop PC to crack your code and see what you should probably change.

 2. Everybody 1, 2 step

Using two-step verification is one of the more extreme ways to protect your password. Websites such as Google offer two-step verification, which requires users to use a special app on their phone that gives them a code to log into their account. This gives accounts two levels of security. While two-step verification does make the process of logging in a little longer, it is one of the most secure things you can do to protect your account from potential hackers. To learn how to use Google’s two-step verification, which can be used for other sites besides Google, visit google.com/langding/2step. This can make it harder for people to access credit cards or top secret information that you don’t want to get into the wrong hands.

3. Back that “pass” up

One of the most secure steps you can take to make your passwords more guarded is to use a password management program like LastPass, Dashlane and KeePass. These programs help generate and store passwords for all websites you use and store them in an encrypted vault. Many are free to use and recommended by technology experts. If you are worried about someone hacking into one of these programs, have no fear. These companies take specific measures to ensure that your information is safe. Because all of these programs are a little different, it is important to check online reviews and research which one would be best for you. These programs help create and remember complex passwords.

4. Harder, better, smarter, stronger

Even if you don’t choose to implement any new technology in your password usage, remember to take time to think of longer, more complex passwords. In the rush to sign up and start using online services, it’s easy to overlook the password section. However, this section could make the difference in whether or not your personal information is obtained by a hacker. Remember to be smart when using the Internet and creating passwords, especially for sites that might not seem the most secure.

Internet safety isn’t something that I feel many of us really think about. However, starting good password security habits now could help keep our accounts more secure for the rest of our lives. This can be especially helpful in future jobs where we might have accounts that include valuable company information.

As college students with a lot of our personal information on the Internet, good passwords can really make a difference in whether or not we become victims of future hacks that could impact our lives. It is impossible to be fully secure online, but I think most of us could use a little more security. 

Camron is a junior in LAS.

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