Tips to keep your data secure

The internet is not as safe or secure as it used to be. In this age of online fraud and identity theft it is important to not only update your passwords and security questions on a regular basis, but to make sure you use different combinations on every website.

Anyone using the internet should update their passwords and security questions on a regular basis, with six months being the maximum amount of time recommended between changes. This is to prevent identity theft and to keep all your information secure.

The most important thing you can do is to use a different password and security question when you sign up to a new website. This is highlighted by the recent hackings of Telstra, Vodafone, Blizzard and LinkedIn databases where email addresses and passwords were stolen. Obviously, if you are using different passwords to any websites other than these, then you would not be open to further risk.

To start your secure online plan, the first step is to choose three different passwords you will use for the next six months. All of these passwords should contain at least one number and one capital letter. For example: 64Drew64 should be near impossible to crack as a password due to numbers at the start and end – note: this is not my password! It meets the minimum requirements for any website as it involves at least one number, a capital letter and is eight characters long. The best part is how easy it is to remember. 64 represents my home address number and obviously, Drew is my name. Another handy combination is using your year of birth, a word which has significant meaning and then the day of the month in which you were born at the end of the password.

Once you have decided upon three separate passwords, write them down and store them in a safe area, as we can all easily forget passwords within the first week.

Now that you have updated your passwords, it is extremely important to also update the security questions which allow you easy access to websites if you do forget these passwords. Security questions are the easiest way into someone’s account for a cyber-scammer as people are more likely to use a very easy-to-answer question.

Using the questions given by Microsoft, I have highlighted in descending order, the most secure and hardest-to-crack questions:
Favourite teacher
Best childhood friend
Grandfather’s occupation
Name of first pet
Mother’s birthplace
Favourite historical person

Sadly, none of the above questions are secure at all and, where possible, you should use the feature that allows you to ask your own question. A computer hacker’s program targeting the Microsoft website, for example, will have the top 100 names, pet names, occupations and historical people in its database. You would be shocked to find how easily these questions are broken.

Remember, password security is only half the battle. Always keep an up-to-date anti-virus program installed, including a firewall, and scan your computer for viruses at least once a week.

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