CyberSmart BW Tip Sheet of the Week #1 – Protecting Your Accounts

There are a number of small things that really help keep you safe online, and for the month of October we are bringing you each week one main area to focus on. This week we will focus on protecting your accounts.  And for this we have two main tips.

  • #1 Use Strong Unique Passwords
  • #2 Use 2 factor Authentication

Protecting your online accounts is very important. Consider, if someone gets into your accounts, they can

  • access your photos, and use these, for example, to compromise or even blackmail you
  • order things in your name, including official documents which might be used for illegal activities.
  • Send emails and messages in your name. Such messages might typically
    • Harm your reputation
    • Ask people in your contact list for an urgent loan
    • Invite your contacts to click on a link, spreading viruses, etc. etc

Now, would you have to agree with any or some of the following?

  1. You have one password that you use for everything
  2. Your password is easy to remember, such as a series of numbers (e.g. 12345) a family member’s birthday, the word ‘password’ (or p@ssword) or something of that nature?
  3. You haven’t changed your password for years

If you have answered yes to any of the above, you need to up your cyber smarts. Because hackers are seriously experienced at guessing obvious passwords – they have bots that just go through a lot of these typical passwords, or even any word you can find in the dictionary. So you have to be creative.

Tip 1. Use strong unique passwords

Strong unique passwords for your various online accounts will make it more difficult to be hacked. And if you use unique passwords for each of your main accounts, only the one that is hacked is compromised if someone does get past your security.

Here are some recommendations for creating a strong password

  • Choose three random words, and add numbers or symbols and punctuation, e.g. “3redhousemonkeys27!”
  • Choose a phrase, or a line of a song that other people would not associate with you. For example, ‘Tramps like us, baby we were born to run'” and take the first character from each word to get ‘tlu,bwwbtr’
  • Choose someone else’s mother’s maiden name (not your own mother’s maiden name)

Should I use a password prompted by a password manager?

A password manager will suggest a very strong unique password – which it will also save so that you don’t have to write it down. Such passwords are generally a random combination of large and small letters and numbers and very difficult to recall or guess. However, these are stored online, which poses a slight risk.

Additional password advice

  • Never disclose your passwords to anyone else. If you do, change it immediately.
  • Don’t enter your password when others can see what you are typing.
  • Change your account immediately if you think it has been hacked. Moreover, change also the password for any other account or website for which you use the same log in details.
  • Don’t recycle passwords (for example password2, password3).
  • Don’t use ‘1,2,3,4’ or L-shaped pattern which are easy to guess.
  • Do not send your password by email. No reputable organisation will ask you to do this.

Tip 2. use 2-factor authentication (2FA).

No matter how good your password, there is always the possibility it will be stolen, or that you will be tricked into revealing it. To help in such instances, it is very advisable to use 2-factor authentication wherever possible. That way if someone is trying to get into your account, you will receive a message with a code. This is for use to confirm that the person trying to getting into that account really is you.

If you do get a message like that and you were not trying to access your account, you should immediately log into your account and change your passsword – because someone has cracked it!

Don’t forget

For more tips, check out our Cybersmart quiz. And don’t forget to let us know what cyber security means to you.

We have a competition going, Just 2 mins to express what you think about cyber security.

To be in for a chance to win a tablet and up to 10 000 in prizes.
Learn more at (Ministry and ebotho websites)