Home Cybersecurity Lock Down Your Login and Password for Better Online Security

Lock Down Your Login and Password for Better Online Security

0

By Bryan Bechard
Faculty Member, School of STEM, American Public University

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. President Obama is partnering with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to start a public awareness campaign they call “Lock Down Your Login.” The idea is to encourage more people to go beyond mere usernames and passwords for authentication purposes. A number of companies are participating in the “Lock Down Your Login” campaign, including Facebook, MasterCard and USAA.

According to the White House, as many as 62% of successful data breaches could have been prevented with better use of authentication systems. These authentication systems include biometrics or dual-factor authentication to supplement usernames and passwords.

Hacker’s ‘Spear Phishing’ Stole Hollywood Celebrities’ Photos and Videos

Edward Majerczyk, a 28-year-old son of a Chicago policeman,  pleaded guilty last month to hacking into the email and iCloud accounts of at least 20 celebrities. He stole nude photos and videos from them.

Majerczyk sent “spear phishing” emails to his intended victims that appeared to come from Apple or Google security. Under various pretenses, he requested their usernames and passwords. His victims provided this information, enabling him to access their email and iCloud accounts and steal personal photos and videos.

It is important to resist providing usernames and passwords in response to emails and text messages unless you have absolutely confirmed that the request is legitimate, which such requests seldom are. If you have the slightest concern that such a request might be illegitimate, contact the actual company to find out if such a request was a scam or not.

Dual-Factor Authentication Aids in Safely Accessing Your Account

You can also utilize dual-factor authentication where your password is only the starting point for accessing your account. After you put in your password, the site you are attempting to access sends a special one-time code to your smartphone so you can access that account.

In some instances, companies will send the code to you only if you are attempting to access your account from a different device than you usually use. Had the celebrity victims used dual-factor authentication, Majerczyk and other attackers would not have been able to hack their accounts.

One Compromised Account Opens the Door to a Victim’s Other Accounts

Another problem with passwords is that many people use the same password for all of their online accounts. Once one victim’s account is compromised, an attacker can access multiple accounts, including online banking accounts.

Even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder of and a sophisticated user of technology, was guilty of this practice. During the summer, his password was stolen during a LinkedIn data breach and used to access his Twitter and Pinterest accounts.

How to Easily Set Up Strong Passwords

Everyone should have unique passwords for all of their accounts. Use a password manager if possible to generate random, unique passwords. A strong password will contain a mix of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. A good manual way to pick a strong password is to take an easily remembered phrase as your base password and then adapt it for each of your accounts.

For instance, you can use a phrase such as IDon’tLikePasswords as your base password. Add a couple of exclamation points to the end of the password and you have a strong password base. Then, add a few letters to this base password to distinguish it from each of your other accounts. Thus your Amazon account password could be “IDon’tLikePasswords!!Amz”. This is a simple way to create easy-to-remember, unique passwords for all of your accounts.

About the Author

Bryan Bechard is the CISO for an automobile finance company; he previously worked at Comcast and HSBC. He holds a Master of Science in information assurance and the following certifications: CISSP, GPEN, CRISC and Toastmaster. Bryan has been an information security instructor for 10 years and a security professional for 16 years.

Comments

comments

Online Degrees & Certificates In Cybersecurity

American Military University's online cybersecurity programs integrate multiple disciplines to ensure you gain the critical skills and management practices needed to effectively lead cybersecurity missions – from government or private industry. Learn from the leader. American Military University is part of American Public University System, which has been designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

Request Information

Please complete this form and we’ll contact you with more information about AMU. All fields except phone are required.

Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Ready to apply? Start your application today.

We value your privacy.

By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails, texts, and phone calls and messages from American Public University System, Inc. which includes American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU), its affiliates, and representatives. I understand that this consent is not a condition of enrollment or purchase.

You may withdraw your consent at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy, terms, or contact us for more details.