It seems that about once every month we hear in the news word of another major security breach where hundreds of thousands of passwords are compromised. Most people don't realize the full scope of the problem that losing a single password can cause. A few weeks ago one of my friends had his e mail account hacked. I learned this along with everyone else on his e mail list by receiving a ton of spam messages from his account. I alerted him that his account was hacked and he seemed to have little concern about it. In fact, a week later I asked him if he contacted his e mail provider to get a resolution to the problem and he still had 'not gotten around to it.' I thought he might need a little motiviation so I shared with him how someone could now access his online banking and clean out his bank account. Yes, that got his attention.
His first reaction was to challenge me on my the notion that his bank account was vulnerable. I asked him if this was the same e mail account he had registered with his online banking. He answered that it was. I next showed him how someone could go into his account and request a password reset and that a new password would be sent to the hacked e mail account. I kid you not that he turned three shades of purple and looked like he was going to get sick. He went directly home and got the e mail issue resolved and changed all of his other accounts with the same log in credentials. My friend's reaction is probably typical of most people that don't connect the dots and see that one hacked account could have very broad consequences.
LinkedIn reportedly had six million username and password combinations compromised by a hacker last week. I am sure that most people yawned and simply concluded that it was not big deal if someone got their LinkedIn password. The reality is that most people use the same username and password for multiple accounts. By getting just one of your log in combinations a hacker will likely be able to gain access to several other accounts and this could include your e mail, online banking, and credit cards. We also know that even if all someone is able to accomplish is to take control of one of your social media accounts, this can be used to send out messages to everyone in your contact list and these messages will appear to be coming from you. There are a myriad of scams that can be employed in just this one scenario alone.
How To Smartly Deal With Passwords
I reached the point recently that I had so many passwords and accounts that I was about to pull my hair out. My adult daughter works with me and has a gift of being able to remember my passwords and bails me out at least two or three times a day. I believe I have finally found an answer to all of this with what is called password management software. I am now using a program that encrypts and stores all of my passwords. All I need to remember is just one username and password to access the program and then it auto completes my log in information. I can not tell you how wonderful this is and how much it is helping me to keep my passwords straight.
Most people use easy to remember passwords such as their children's names, birthdays of family members, etc... These kinds of passwords are not difficult for a hacker to guess. Even worse, sometimes people use 'password' or '12345678' and other ridiculous log in credentials. Password management software can automatically create incredibly difficult passwords and then save them for you. You know, the passwords that have upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and even those rarely used characters like ~ on your keyboard. These are passwords you would never be able to remember and you don't have to once you install a password management program.
Here are four that were recommended in a recent tech article I saw this weekend -
LastPass (the one I use) - Free but also offers a premium service for $12 per year. They additionally offer a number of other upgrades as well. I have the premium level service and love it and it is worth what comes out to $1 a month.
1Password - A one time fee of $49.99
KeePass - Open source and completely free.
My Padlock - Completely free option.
I went with LastPass Premium rather than one of the completely free options. I like the ability to share passwords without having to send them by e mail. This comes up frequently when there is a group project going on in our office. I also like the fact that I can log in from any of my computers or a mobile device and gain access to my password vault. These features really make me a big LastPass fan. Based on your own circumstances a free option may work just fine.
If you have your own recommendation on a password software program please share it in the comments section below.