Our unhealthy password habits may be putting our personal information and identity at risk. At least 65% of people reuse passwords across multiple sites and although 91% of individuals understand the risk of password reuse, 59% admitted to doing it anyway.
In July of 2020, multiple databases containing the stolen information of over 386 million consumers were posted online in a hacker forum — all for free. Cyberthieves stole the exposed data from eighteen companies, and although the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in each database varies, it typically contained names, user names, email addresses, and passwords. Nowadays, hackers can decipher hashed passwords, further exposing a breach victim to account takeover and credential stuffing attacks.
Although there are several different kinds, password managers are generally designed to store all your online login credentials in one secure location. That means you don’t need to remember all those strong passwords you created for your banking, shopping, email, and online storage accounts — you just have to recall one password that grants you access to your personal security database.
Risks & Benefits
Here’s the bad news: hackers would love to get into your password manager, and many have been working hard to achieve that.
But there’s good news, too. Password manager developers have been focusing even more intently on security, and many have multiple layers of encryption, achieving a higher level of password safety.
They’ve become better at shutting down phishing attempts, too. If you try to put your password into a bogus banking site, the password manager won’t automatically fill in your login information, giving you the head’s up that you may be on a site with a different URL than your bank’s.
Also, the password managers allow you to develop better habits when it comes to password protection. For example, people tend to use the same passwords across multiple sites, which can increase the odds of having your identity stolen. The password managers often prevent you from using the same password for more than one site, as an added security measure.
Because people tend to lean towards choosing passwords that are easy to remember or include personal information like a pet’s name or a favorite sport, many password managers offer tips or security scores to help users create strong passwords. (Recognize any of your own combinations on this list of worst passwords?) They can even store previous passwords, to make sure you don’t reuse an older one.
Every piece of technology comes with some degree of risk, and password managers are not immune to these risks. But these services can give you the ability to implement strong passwords and prompt you to change those passwords frequently — a crucial security tactic that’s often overlooked.
When making your resolutions for the year ahead, consider getting organized and improving your password safety at the same time, in an effort to help identity theft prevention. Research your password manager options and learn how they work.