Simple Security: First in a Series

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Security on the internet is…complicated. Even for experts.

You probably know people who’ve had their computer infected, passwords stolen, junk email sent from their account, or other awful things that are inconvenient (like locked accounts) or even life-changing (like stolen identities).

People often ask me for help securing their computers. Actually, that’s not true; people ask for help after their computers have been hacked or infected. They know I’ve worked in security, so this is something I’ve thought about a lot.

This series of posts provides simple ways to keep your computer (and hopefully your personal information) more secure without a lot of effort.

Today’s Tip:

PLEASE DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS.

There’s a rant brewing about how much of a pain passwords are, and how you should use strong passwords and keep track of them with a password manager, but for now:

PLEASE DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS.

At the very least, have two or three passwords, ones you easily remember for low-priority sites like news and other sites where you have to register, and stronger, more complex passwords for important sites like your banking and email. That way if someone hacks one of the “low priority” sites, they don’t have the password to your most important accounts. This makes the hacker’s job much harder.

It’s best that your banking, brokerage, and similar critical accounts have a different password than your email, because your email is what you use to recover a password on other accounts. Which means if someone steals the password for your bank (which is terrible) they also have the password to your email, so they can take that over and use it to set new passwords on other important sites (which is even worse).

In a perfect world you’d have a different password for every account, so that if someone hacked a site and got your password, it would only be useful on the site they’d already hacked. But that’s a lot of passwords to keep track of. So for now:

PLEASE DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS.

Thank you.

Have suggestions for simple security tips? Leave a comment!

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