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Why you should stop using the same password for everything

And why you need a password manager.

Years ago, and even now, you picked an easy password that you can remember. You start getting alerts that your password is not strong. So you create a password, and it is 12 characters long. You have capital letters, random letters and even symbols and you are proud of yourself for making the extra effort. What’s the one habit you do not change? You use the same password for multiple accounts.

No big deal, it’s a strong password, right? Wrong.

How hackers gain login information
You may think that hackers are deliberately trying to force their way into your account by trying to figure out your password. Brute force attacks do still happen, but there are more common ways.

One method of accessing your login information is when hackers break into a website's server and steal the usernames and passwords of some or all the members of that site. In that case, they take your login information, along with everyone else, share it and sell it.

Another means of gaining your credentials is through phishing. A hacker sends you an email from a legitimate looking site asking you to reset your password or login to your account to get more information, and you directly enter your username and password for them. They can access that account, but can also login to other accounts if you use the same username and password.

Is your data compromised?
Your data could already be compromised. You can check if your data was stolen as a part of a data breach through too. Mine was – several times.

Will changing a compromised password work?

In the interim, yes, but if you do not modify your other passwords, it will not. When a hacker obtains your credentials, they then try to use those same credentials on major sites. If you use the same stolen username and password, they could have access to your bank account, your iTunes account, your credit card, and worse, your email and your business server. That is why you should use different passwords for every account.

Take the next step
In addition to using unique login information for all your accounts, both business and personal, enable any security options your online accounts offer. Security words help to personalize beyond a randomly generated password. Two-factor authentication allows an extra layer that requires you to enter a code when logging in from an unrecognized device. And now, some companies even offer an app to generate an authentication key.

Protect your accounts and protect your business
You, of course, can create randomly generated passwords for every online account you have, but you may have trouble remembering them. I use and suggest you use a password manager. Password managers store and encrypt your passwords. You only need to remember one strong, master password to access the others. Password managers can also analyze your current password for duplicate use and strength. Then, it will help you change the affected passwords!

Most password managers offer desktop and mobile versions to help you. KeePass, LastPass, and LogMeOnce are a few popular password managers that offer some free services.

Password security is becoming increasingly important to keep your personal and farm business information safe. Make the smart move for your smart office and make a plan for password management today.

Do you use a password manager? Share your recommendations with me and others on Twitter @nerdsquawk or via email at [email protected].

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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