How To Protect Your Online Identity

The internet is an integral part of daily life. We rely on it to work, study, stay connected with family and friends, shop, invest, pay bills and for entertainment. All this online interaction results in an enormous amount of personal information about us stored online. Of course, sensitive information like credit cards numbers, banking information and social security numbers are secured with passwords, but does that mean that your personal information is safe?

Probably not, especially if you are among the millions of people who use passwords that are easy to remember, (for example, the name of the family pet, a birthday, etc.) and who use no more than 2 – 3 different passwords across all of the websites you interact with.

Here’s why:

  • Passwords like a pet name or a birthday are readily available to a much larger audience than you may think on social media sites. If you doubt this, check out the privacy policy on any of these sites that you use.
  • Limiting the number of passwords that you have to remember is convenient for you, but it’s also convenient for a hacker. Once a hacker gains access to one account, they have access to every account with that password. And it’s easier than you think to write a few lines of code to automatically hack into multiple sites in a few seconds. Those distorted image codes that often accompany a login that you have to correctly type in order to gain access to the site don’t provide much security. They are computer generated. Anything that a computer can generate, a computer can also reverse engineer.
A Convenient, More Secure Alternative

Luckily, it is not necessary to choose between the convenience of remembering a few passwords and having your personal data secure. There are password management tools that provide both. My favorite is one called “Last Pass” as in “this is the last password you will ever have to remember. And best of all, its free for use on PCs and laptops, costs a mere $12 a year to use on mobile devices. (However, I don’t recommend accessing sensitive personal information over unsecured public networks unless you are certain the connection is secure.)

Last Pass stores all of your passwords in a cloud-based “vault”, secured with a password that is encrypted and decrypted on your device. The password travels “over the air” only in an encrypted form, so even if its intercepted, its unreadable. The Last Pass password is the only password that you will have to remember. Each time register on a new website, Last Pass will ask you if want it to generate a password, and if so, how many characters, whether the password should contain just letters or a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. If you opt to create your own password or when you login to a site that you already created a password for, Last Pass detects the password and asks you to if you want Last Pass to save it.
Last Pass will store multiple login/passwords for a website, for example, if you and a spouse use the same computer to access different accounts at the same bank

More information about Last Pass can be found here including how to download and install. The installation instructions include directions on how to remove saved passwords from your browser. This is an important and useful step because removing the passwords from your browser means that:

  • If your laptop is lost or stolen, your password information is not stolen too.
  • When you upgrade to a new computer, since all your passwords are stored “in a cloud”, signing into all of your favorite websites is seamless.

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