Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland BC, in conjunction with the BBBs across Canada, held its fourth annual National Password Day on March 15. The initiative—part of National Fraud Prevention Month and BBB’s Top 10 Scams campaign—is an opportunity to both remind and encourage businesses and consumers to practice proactive cybersecurity.
Even though National Password Day has come and gone, BBB encourages the public to schedule time to change the passwords for the top three accounts you would not want to see hacked.
“Passwords are such an integral part of our digital lives, as we use them to help secure important personal and financial information,” says Karla Davis, Manager of Community and Public Relations for BBB serving Mainland BC. “However, with 73 per cent of users repeating the same password for multiple online accounts, and the majority not creating strong passwords at all, there are millions of people whose confidential information is one hacker away from being compromised, placing them at risk of falling victim to identity theft.”
A study in the UK found that the average person has around 118 accounts, with the most common ones being activated on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More than 90 per cent of consumers are now shopping online, which means many people also have accounts for Amazon, Ebay, and other retail stores, as well as for bank accounts and bill payment portals.
While most of our online accounts are inactive or are used less frequently, every single one has our personal and financial information tied to them in some way: passwords, emails, and even credit card information.
To create a strong password, use between eight and 13 characters, and use a combination of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols. You can also use song lyrics, words in another language, or an unusual movie title.
Things to avoid when creating a password include using family and/or pet names, birth dates, and addresses or phone numbers. And don’t just add a number or letter to your last password: create something completely new.
Aim to create strong passwords that vary across accounts and are difficult to guess, keeping in mind that every extra character in your password reduces the risk of the account being compromised. Also, change your passwords frequently—at least two or three times per year—and never share your passwords with anyone.
Another way to reduce your exposure to hacking, and also manage the number of passwords to remember, is by closing any account you have not used in over a year. Scammers can do great harm using dormant or inactive accounts. Close old accounts that use or are associated with money, credit cards, or bill payments, and do not forget to delete inactive email and social media accounts, as well as accounts on subscription sites.