How to Keep Your Online Accounts Secure
Table of Contents
- Security, Not Privacy
- Passwords Can Be the Weakest Link
- Use a Password Manager
- Do You Use a Password Manager?
- Use Two-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible
- Examples of Two-Factor Authentication
- Do You Use Two-Factor Authentication?
- Delete Unused Accounts
- Useful Security Related Web Browser Extensions
- Clear Your Browsing History When Using Public Computers
- Be Careful of Public WiFi Networks
- Do You Use a VPN?
- You Will Feel Happy Being Secure
Most websites require an account of some sorts to access or use them, and it is important to make sure we secure these accounts from intrusion and harm.
There are people out their that want to break into your accounts, and they will try many different tricks and traps to get you.
It is important to secure our online accounts as much as possible, and I am going to go over advice on how to do this.
Security, Not Privacy
I will go over steps you can take to protect your online accounts.
While some of these methods will increase your privacy, this is not the focus.
Also keep in mind that, at some point, you have to decide between convenience and security. There are some security options I do not use because they are too inconvenient.
Passwords Can Be the Weakest Link
One of the biggest weak points of online security is passwords. You have probably used a weak password before, and I know I have in the past.
Having strong passwords is one the first things you should do to protect your online accounts. A password should be over eight characters long and use capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Using longer and more complex passwords is better.
After creating a password do not use it again! Doing this is a huge mistake many people make. Why is reusing passwords such a bad thing to do?
We need to roleplay as a hacker or account thief to understand the issue of password reuse. If I can successfully steal one account from somebody, I will try that same email and password combination at other websites.
If this person does reuses the same password and email everywhere, trying the same combination will lead to me breaking into to other accounts.
This example should make it clear why reusing passwords everywhere is a huge mistake, and I recommend almost every password should be unique.
I say almost every password as I do repeat passwords in some instances. I sometimes use a common password when I want to make an account quickly, and I am not sure the account will be very important.
I will change the password if the account ends up being important to me though.
Use a Password Manager
You should use a password manager to store your online account information. Using a password manager allows you to make more secure passwords as now you do not have to remember them, and doing this is a huge boost towards protecting your online accounts.
I have over 50 unique passwords, and there is no way I can remember them all. If you do use a password manager, disable password storage with your current web browser and stick to using whatever manger you chose.
There are Cloud-based and local based password managers. Using a Cloud-based password manager is more convenient and easy to do.
Using a locally stored password manager like KeePass is more secure but a bit more cumbersome to use.
I am currently using Bitwarden and, this is an open source cloud-based password manager.
Do You Use a Password Manager?
An Example of a Password Manager
Use Two-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible
Having strong passwords is not enough for me when it comes to protecting my online accounts, and I use anything I can to add extra security to my accounts.
If a website offers two-factor authentication, use it! While the extra security may seem like a hassle, it is 100% worth it.
Two-factor authentication is having something other than a password to log into an account, and two-factor authentication applications normally send you temporary codes to use.
Two-factor authentication makes your accounts much more secure because if the attacker can not access the device that generates the codes, they should not be able to log into your account.
This website shows you what services provide two-factor authentication.
Examples of Two-Factor Authentication
You can use a service like Google Authenticator or Authy and some services have individual mobile applications you must use.
Some services offer authentication by sending texts and I use this type of authentication to protect my PayPal account.
Some services send codes by email for new sign-ins. Here are the accounts I use two-factor authentication to project.
Do You Use Two-Factor Authentication?
Delete Unused Accounts
If you are 100% sure you will never use an online account again delete it as there is no reason to let businesses have your personal information if you no longer need their services.
Some websites make deleting accounts hard, and there is no easy or obvious way to do this. I suggest contacting customer support if you find yourself in this situation and want to delete a troublesome account.
I also recommend only storing payment information for online accounts you spend money with. Doing this helps prevent a possible thing for hackers to steal and it also helps prevent unauthorized transactions.
Useful Security Related Web Browser Extensions
These are the add-ons/extensions I use to make my web browser more secure. Most of these add-ons/extensions should work with both Google Chrome and Firefox.
- Bitdefender TrafficLight: This add-on/extensions warns you about dangerous websites, so you do not visit them.
- HTTPS Everywhere: This extension tries to open the most secure version of web pages. I leave HTTPS Everywhere on at all times, and it's a nice thing to have to make your internet browsing more secure.
- Password Manager: Most online-based password managers have browser extensions, and if you use a password manager I highly suggest using this as well.
- Ublock Origin: Ads can lead to shady websites with malware, and ads are also annoying and slow down web pages. If you still want to support a website, you can whitelist them or give them a donation.
Clear Your Browsing History When Using Public Computers
It is important to make sure you sign out of all online accounts before you stop using a public computer, and deleting the current web browser history makes sure you do not miss anything.
I do this when I start and finish using a public computer.
It's even better if you can use an incognito/private browsing mode as then nothing will get saved, to begin with.
How to Delete Browser History on Safari
How to Delete Browser History on Google Chrome Browser
How to Delete Browser History on Firefox
Be Careful of Public WiFi Networks
Be wary of using public WiFi networks as hackers love to use public WiFi to find victims.
While there won't be a hacker every time you use a public network, try to avoid doing anything too personal.
Some people recommend only using public WiFi networks with a VPN. I can't say that is something I do myself, but it a step you can take to guarantee security when using public WiFi.
This article from Tom's Hardware goes over VPN services, and it is a good place to start doing research.
Do You Use a VPN?
You Will Feel Happy Being Secure
Securing your online accounts may sometimes seem tedious and boring. However nobody wants to be hacked, and you will appreciate the extra peace of mind this brings.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Eric Farmer