It's embarrassing and a bit terrifying, but it's time to admit an Internet behavior that many are guilty of. Nobody is proud of it, but it's happening in staggering numbers: password laziness. Chances are your password choice is not enough to guard your most important financial information, your clients' documents, or your most intimate email conversations.
The fact is that it's likely that even an amateur journalist could crack your password, let alone a hacker with pretty stealth tools, but you're not alone: 90% of user generated passwords are susceptible to being hacked. If the U.S. Central Command can get their social media channels messed with, then it's highly likely that you or your business needs to step up its digital security game. Before you start preparing your cyber bunker, there are some simple steps to take so that your company's private information won't be exposed.
Elevate Your Password Game
The once-clever combination of numbers, letters, and symbols that you used for your passwords is not strong enough to deter hackers anymore. When, in 2013, a major software company had 152 million accounts hacked, it was shocking to see how obvious so many people's passwords were. 345,843 accounts actually used the word "password" and 2,000,000 used numbers "123456." Do not be that guy. If passwords use numbers and words that are memorable to you, they're very easy to figure out. A lot of software hacking programs claim to make 350 billion guesses a second, so you'll need to make your passwords at least 13-20 characters long and don't use common words or phrases (yes, that means your lover's name is out and so is that of your beloved corgi).
Down with Password Roulette
75% of people only change a letter or character in each of their passwords to create a "unique" one for each of their accounts. That's great to prevent hackers from daisy chaining their way through all of your private information, but it can be a real pain to remember them all. This can be especially annoying if you have a personal and professional account for an app or site. Meldium, is an online tool that brings all your sign-on processes into one space. Meldium provides instant access to over 1800 apps, like Dropbox, Google Apps, Hubspot, WordPress, Zendesk, Salesforce, Asana, Trello, Evernote, JIRA, and Rackspace. Teams can simplify sharing access to apps like Twitter without ever sharing passwords, onboard new team members in minutes and disable access to any services in an instant if necessary. We can all relate to the frustration of being locked out of an account and jumping through hoops to request a password reset, or digging through a pile of papers to find a password you wrote down days or months ago. Password managers like Meldium can reduce these annoyances and make sure you can get right to work instead of wasting valuable time trying to keep track of all of your passwords. It can also help you have encourage better password hygiene — with Meldium, you can have a long, complex passwords across every service sure to foil hackers, but you don't have to deal with the pains of remembering it, which will help to protect your sensitive information.
Cryptic Coding is King
Hackers, especially brilliant ones, strike fear into the heart of any business owner who uses the internet to do business or store data. But really, hackers usually use the same methods over and over to get what they want, and there are ways to use their laziness to your advantage. Server hacking — when hackers target servers that put their passwords in plain text — is pretty popular. This was the case when a large entertainment company left personal data of millions totally unprotected. They had basically put private information in an obviously titled text document. It should go without saying but...don't do that.
Ignorance is Not Bliss
In the biggest retail hack in U.S. history, in which hackers commandeered every credit card used at a big box retailer's 1,797 stores, the biggest problem wasn't the stealth maneuvers of the the criminals took to get into the system, but the fact that the company had ignored all the warning signs. The $1.6 million malware detection tool (which, it should be noted, is the same one used by the Pentagon) that the company installed had detected the malware early, but the retailer didn't do a thing about it. While these huge companies weathered the storm, smaller businesses are more susceptible for cybercrime because hackers know their network security is probably pretty weak. Password-managers like Meldium can encourage good password practices amongst teams and businesses — which protects both individual and company-wide security. In the case of the entertainment company's major security blunder, hackers obtained data from every aspect of their business, from private emails between actors and producers to salaries. Once the hackers got into the network, it was easy to troll around. Make sure to compartmentalized and encrypt all your businesses data.
Until all our messages and some key personal data are actually ephemeral, a la something like Snapchat for all our emails and most private information, keep all your digital data on lockdown. Meldium is one of the easiest ways to keep your data safe.
Kristina Loring is an independent radio producer, writer, and digital strategist living in San Francisco. She loves exploring the hidden design in cities and riding a bicycle away from tech epicenters toward the sea.