Safeguarding your digital presence

Password managers are a growing necessity in our digital lives. Today’s humans grapple to keep track of the incredible amount of login information related to their online presence, which grows every day thanks to platform integrations, permissions, and a growing number of social media platforms. 

Of course, we all remember a time when we only used one or two passwords to manage all our digital accounts—back when MySpace was still a thing and the only permission you needed was meant to log you into Facebook

Things change. 

Today, most of us use our Google profiles to access most of the available services thanks to authentication services such as OAuth, which is much safer than creating a new account from scratch thanks to private access tokens generated by your main account provider—in this case Google. 

Many digital platforms, like Twitter and Yahoo, offer similar services to help keep your information secure. Even still, many folks choose to create their own accounts, therefore increasing their risk potential and the amount of login information they need to keep track of. 

A Brief History on Passwords

In 1961, researchers at MIT developed the CTSS (Compatible Time-Sharing System), a computer capable of allowing multiple users to “log into” their own individual computer silos or terminals with access to private files. 

An amazing and new way of having users collaborate on projects using their own private access tokens or “passwords” which made participation much easier. 

Long story short—it was hacked. A fellow researcher called Allan Scherr admitted to having “duped” the system 25 years after the incident. 

In the early, formative years of the web, passwords were very straightforward, and often guarded nothing more than an email address, perhaps a full name, and a birthdate. Technology and personalization paved the way for a more robust data compilation system and therefore, larger payoffs for hacking a person’s digital assets.

Back then, there were far less “private” or citizen users on the web. Furthermore, internet ads were still pretty basic, with simple banner ads available on a few top-level domains and sites that didn’t leverage personalization like we do in 2021. 

A strong password helps you to: 

  1. Protect your files, email, local PC and other data

  2. Prevent unauthorized access to your files and digital profiles

  3. Keep your personal information secure from hackers

Passwords—Where We Are Now

In the last few years, researchers have developed several ways to strengthen and maintain passwords, including password managers, cloud or keychain-type devices that are native to certain operating systems and can store, manage, and delete user passwords. 

Effective tools to develop your passwords are also found everywhere, and passwords have gone from the simple, yet hard-to-crack 9-digit codes from the past, to complicated, lengthy strings usually ranging between 15 – 30 characters, including alphanumeric characters and symbols. 

Biometric authentication has also come a long way in helping people keep their phones and devices—as well as their passwords—secure. But it has all come at a steep price: we are now more attached to our phones and devices more than ever before. Technology has slowly made its way into the very core of human existence, and with it all the dangers behind the internet and its darkest corners. 

To conclude, here are some reliable tips to create your own passwords: 

  • Choose a unique password: ideally, you should not be using any password more than once, but you can create alternate variations of a single password to overcome this challenge. Use numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters

    • Example: [Initial] + [Number Sequence] + [Symbol sequence] + [Number sequence] + [Random letter sequence] + [Middle initial]

      • J.8420#*21aEoF.G

  • Make your password long: aside from being harder to crack, a longer password gives you more space to create a passphrase which is easier to remember. Passphrases have long said to be stronger that regular passwords in that they are harder to guess from a machine and logical perspective

    • Example: i0nC3Dr@nkWaTEr!n@riV#r (“I once drank water in a river”)

  • Avoid common names or personal info: avoid anything that can be traced back to you, including your name and that of members of your family, birthday, phone numbers, street address, first job, etc

    • Example: John_1985_PizzaPlace

  • Keep your passwords secure: if you prefer to write down your passwords instead of using an app, hide them carefully. Use a single notebook to store all your passwords and keep it in a safe place

  • Use two-factor authentication: many platforms now have the option to validate your sign-in requests using an authentication app or using your phone. Any of these are great options to add an extra layer of security to your data

If you are interested in the best password managers nowadays, check out this research by ConsumersAdvocate.org on the best password managers – definitely worth a read!

Guest post contribution by Wally de la Rosa from ConsumersAdvocate.org

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