How vigilant are you when it comes to password security? A recent ruling highlighted the importance of protecting your privacy and the potential consequences if you do not.
This past summer, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in way that sparked wide controversy. The case pertained to a man named David Nosal, who stole information from his previous employer to use in starting his own business. Nosal was able to access the information because friends of his at his former company gave him the necessary passwords.
This incident happened some time ago and Nosal was convicted in 2013, but when reconsidering the case, the judges upheld his conviction. The ruling has caused many to be concerned about how the law will be interpreted regarding password sharing.
While Nosal was clearly out of bounds in trying to sabotage his former employer, many worry that some might interpret the law as applying to any kind of password sharing. If it were interpreted this way, then technically speaking, sharing Netflix or HBO Go passwords with friends could be a federal crime.
The CEOs of both Netflix and HBO have expressed indifference regarding their customers sharing passwords with each other. Nevertheless, the ruling does call attention to “the importance of knowing who has your passwords, what those passwords provide access to, and more pointedly, the security and legal consequences of sharing.” It’s also a good reminder for all of us to re-evaluate the measures we’re taking to protect sensitive information.
Keeping Your Information Secure
Hopefully it’s obvious that your passwords should not be easy to guess, nor should you use the same one for multiple accounts. This is especially true if the data you are protecting is sensitive. Nevertheless, people are often sloppy with their passwords, and as a result make it easy for hackers to access their data.
An incredibly useful tool for not only managing your passwords but also helping you create strong ones is the application 1Password. With 1Password, you can store all of your log in information in one place. You only need one complex master password that you memorize in order to access all of the others.
Of course, if someone were to discover your master password, you would be in trouble. But if you make your master password elaborate, memorize it, and don’t write it down, then your data should be safe.
Another great feature of 1Password is that it can randomly generate strong passwords for you. That way you don’t have to constantly come up with reliable passwords every time you need to create log in info for a new site.
In addition to strengthening and securing your passwords, getting antivirus software should be a no-brainer. While nothing is a 100% guarantee against a security breach, antivirus software does offer some level of protection.Another point to keep in mind is that many people are careless about their use of public Wi-Fi. You should never access sensitive information, such as your bank
Another point to keep in mind is that many people are careless about their use of public Wi-Fi. You should never access sensitive information, such as your bank account, when using Wi-Fi in public. You can also increase your security in this situation by using a virtual private network. A VPN conceals your IP address, encrypting your online activity, and essentially making you an anonymous.
Should You Change Your Passwords All the Time?
You probably have heard the conventional wisdom that the more often you change your passwords, the more secure your information will be. But there is reason to believe that, in reality, the more frequently you change your password, the less secure your data is.
One reason why is that when people repeatedly have to create an excessive number of new passwords, they are more likely to create ones that are weak instead of strong. For example, it’s very common for people simply to make small adaptations to their current passwords, instead of coming up with totally new ones. These small changes make the passwords easy to create and to remember.
Unfortunately, this tendency also makes it easy for hackers to identify password patterns. It is much smarter not to require people to change their passwords all the time, but instead to have them create strong ones.
Don’t Assume You’re Not at Risk
We have all heard of instances of mass data breaches. The Target incident of 2013 comes to mind, when hackers accessed the personal information of around 40 million customers. The company consequently had to pay millions of dollars in settlement money.
Earlier this year, quite a few Spotify accounts were compromised. Users were kicked off Spotify, their emails were changed, and music they did not choose appeared on their playlists. What’s worse, some people had used their Spotify passwords on other personal accounts, which in some cases included bank accounts. As a result, hackers were able to access information that was much more sensitive than mere audio files.
Yet despite the frequency with which we hear of data breaches, it is only too easy to be careless with our security. Don’t wait for your private information to be jeopardized. Take measures now to protect your data from unnecessary vulnerability.