The internet’s become our home base, especially during the pandemic. And a lot of us aren’t locking the door.
Are you talking about online security?
You bet. A 2017 Pew Research survey found that 64% of Americans had experienced or been notified of a major data breach — that includes all different kinds of data theft from credit card fraud to social media hacks. Meanwhile, that same survey found that only 12% of American internet users reported using a password manager to stay secure. And hacks don’t come cheap. One insurance carrier estimates that hacks cost businesses of all sizes an average of $200,000. Another recent estimate puts the total cost of global cybercrime around $1 trillion. With a T. Either way, odds are you’re playing a little too fast and loose.
Remind me how password managers work again.
Think of it like a vault for all your passwords, with one key to rule them all. This study found that more than half of Americans reuse passwords across multiple accounts, even though we’ve been told that’s bad for our cybersecurity. Password managers generate random and hard to crack passwords for every separate account, and you only need a single password to access the rest of them. One password management company, LastPass, found that its average business user manages 191 passwords. Too many to manage on your own.
But do I really need a password manager?
Yes. Security experts recommend signing up for one. Google’s Smart Lock (on Chrome and Android) and Apple’s iCloud Keychain (in Safari and iOS) can save and auto-fill passwords. But a password manager does more. Think: alerting you when you’re reusing a password or when your passwords are weak. Some of them even give you a heads up if a service you use has been hacked.
So my accounts can still get hacked with a password manager?
Never say never. But it’s unlikely. Most password managers scramble each individual account, making your information less susceptible to a mass attack. While a hacker may gain access to the encrypted data, it’s unlikely that they will be able to decipher it without your personal master password, which only you know (because password managers don’t store that).
Which password manager should I get?
You have options. 1Password appears to be a favorite among tech experts and it’s Skimm HQ’s manager of choice. It offers features like standalone vaults, Watchtower (which helps you identify and change weak, reused, or compromised passwords), and easy sharing for family accounts. For one person, it’s $36 a year. For free options, LastPass and Bitwarden are some top picks.
Too late, I’ve been hacked. What should I do?
Reach out to the company that owns the account that was hacked. Every business has its own policies, which you can probably find by a quick online search. Here is Google’s tool for a compromised account, here is Facebook’s, and here is Netflix’s to name a few big ones. Then, change your password. And change the password on any of your other accounts that use that password or are in any way connected to the hacked account. Anddd get a password manager. Full circle.
“Stay safe out there” doesn’t just refer to the real world. The internet is the Wild West, and password managers are your security system.
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