How to Secure Online Accounts
Table of Contents
- This Is a Guide on 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?
Protect Your Online Accounts
Most websites require an account of some sorts to access or use them. 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.
This Is a Guide on Security Not Privacy
While some of the things in this guide will increase your privacy, this is not the focus. Also keep in mind that, at some point, you must 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
Be Careful About Your Passwords
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.
Use Strong Passwords
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.
Do Not Reuse Passwords
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?
People Will Try to Guess Your Account Credentials
We need to role play 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.
The website storing your login information can be hacked. If your login information is leaked online, don't be surprised if some hackers try to log into other websites using these credentials.
Password Reuse Leads to Other Accounts Being Hacked
If this person does reuse the same password and email everywhere, trying the same combination will lead to me breaking into to other accounts.
Use a Password Manager
Password Managers are Great Online Tools
I have over 50 unique passwords, and there is no way I can remember them all. You should use a password manager to store your online account information.
Password Managers Are More Secure
Using a password manager allows you to make more secure passwords as now you do not have to remember them. Doing this is a huge boost towards protecting your online accounts. If you do use a password manager, disable password storage with your current web browser and stick to using whatever manger you chose.
Password Manager Options
There are Cloud-based and local based password managers. Using a Cloud-based password manager is more convenient. Using a locally stored password manager like KeePass is more secure but a bit more cumbersome to use.
The Password Manager I 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
Use Two-Factor Authentication
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.
This website shows you what services provide two-factor authentication.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
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.
Why Is Two-Factor Authentication Useful?
Two-factor authentication makes your accounts much more secure because if the attacker cannot access the device that generates the codes, they should not be able to log into your account.
Examples of Two-Factor Authentication
Code Two-Factor Authentication
You can use a service like Google Authenticator or Authy and some services have individual mobile applications you must use.
Text Two-Factor Authentication
Some services offer authentication by sending texts and I use this type of authentication to protect my PayPal account.
Email Two-Factor Authentication
Some services send codes by email for new sign-ins.
Do You Use Two-Factor Authentication?
Delete Unused Accounts
Don't Keep Unwanted 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.
This May Be Hard Sometimes
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.
Only Store Payment Information with Websites You Use Often
I also recommend only storing payment information for online accounts you spend money with often. Doing this helps prevent a possible thing for hackers to steal and it also helps prevent unauthorized transactions.
Useful Security Related Web Browser Extensions
Use 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.
Security Extension List
- Bitdefender TrafficLight: This add-on/extension 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 always leave HTTPS Everywhere on, 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
Always Sign out of Public Computers
It is important to make sure you sign out of all online accounts before you stop using a public computer. 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.
Use Incognito/Private Browsing
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 Firefox
Be Careful of Public WiFi Networks
Be More Mindful of Security on Public WiFi
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.
Using VPNs May Be a Good Option
Some people recommend only using public WiFi networks with a VPN. 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?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Eric Farmer