Have you been exposed?

If you use the internet you and your information will eventually be part of one or more data breaches. Recently, the FBI has turned to Have I Been Pwned to alert victims of a data breach that their information has been exposed. Not surprisingly I found that my personal email address had been exposed in 4 recent data breaches, and my work email had been exposed in 3.

What if you have been caught in one of these massive data breaches? Is it time to throw in the towel and either ignore cybersecurity, or to abandon the internet? Of course, neither is a workable solution in today’s world.

So what can you do?

Use good passwords. Yes, some sights limit the number of characters you may use; some limit the “special characters” you may use. But all other things being equal, a password that is longer than 15 character (20 is better) is more secure; that is, assuming it’s not your name, the names of pets, children, or “password123456.”

Passwords that use passphrases are usually more secure. Rather than using full words, try thinking of a phrase that you will easily remember and then use, for example, the first letter of each word, using both upper and lower case letters, numbers and a special character or two. You may wish to make that passphrase the core of your different passwords – yes, you should use a different password for each site, app, or service you use – by adding a letter or two to the beginning and end of your password. So, if your easily remembers phrase in whole is “I really miss my first car which was a 1969 Volkswagen” your password core could be “Irmm1stcwWa69VW”. Then your password, let’s say for your Bank of America accounts could be BaIrmm1stcwWa69VWca . . . taking the Ba at the beginning from Bank and ca at the end from America. Does that seem long? Well, yes, but long is better and long is better than having your online life compromised.

Or you may wish to use a password manager, like LastPass, 1Password, or any of the other reliable ones on the market. Password managers create long and apparently random passwords for all of the sites, apps, etc. you use and all you have to remember is your master password, which hopefully will be long and secure. You may want to check PC Magazine’s annual survey to see which is the best one, and to easily compare them. Like all things, please opt for the paid version (they aren’t expensive) rather than the free version.

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