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Managing the Access to Our Digital Lives

Passwords. They’ve become an integrated component to how we function in our daily lives. They are designed for protection of privacy, and they represent a first line of defense in securing our digitals lives and cyber personas. And in some cases, our only defense.

Sending, receiving, emailing, accessing, transacting, purchasing, banking, subscribing, submitting, authorizing and social networking…just to name a few. As a result of the digital age and the growing number of interactions we have with electronic systems, I personally, am prompted for a password between 15-25 times each day – and sometimes in excess of 30.

As creatures that thrive on the euphoric principle of convenience, we often find ourselves constantly looking for ways to achieve more of it. While, at the same time, battling the perceived obstacles that seem to work against us and our quest to attain even more convenience(s) in our daily lives.

Translate this to how many of us view the obstacle of passwords. The number of daily online interactions that require our use of passwords is undoubtedly increasing. However, our tolerance for managing this growing mountain is endearingly low…. and that may be an understatement. As a result, we’ve gravitated towards a dangerous practice known as “password re-use”. Simply stated, our convenience is more important to us than our security. Agreed?

Look at the recent breaches of user passwords from services such as Facebook, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, eHarmony and other popular social-networking sites. Following these incidents, websites quickly surfaced publishing lists upon lists of these compromised passwords – and in many cases, usernames as well…which, in many cases, just so happened to be an email address.

Arguably, one could downplay the potential damage resulting from the unauthorized access to one of their accounts listed for the above sites. But, would you downplay the risk if one of these lists published your username and password for your online banking site? Absolutely not. And thus is the inherit problem that exists when re-using the same or similar passwords across online banking, social networking, and other e-commerce sites.

So, what measures can we be taking to help us avoid this problem and our tendency to opt for reusing passwords?

1. At a minimum, establish unique and complex passwords for use when accessing your online banking site. Inquire with your bank to see if they offer other factors for online authentication, such as tokens or OTPs (one-time passwords).

2. Use a personal passphrase instead of a single word, and build a password based on the words contained in the phrase or sentence. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought…” could be remembered as “4scanse”.

3. Consider a password management tool to help generate and store unique passwords for each of the sites you visit. Some of the most popular include RoboForm (my personal favorite), LastPass, and KeePass, to name a few. These tools will encrypt your saved passwords for safe online or offline storage and access.

Following such practices will reduce your risk of an attacker gaining access to your sensitive credentials. Only you can help yourself.

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