Get Safe Online week has been taking place between 22 and 26 October, with a roadshow taking in five major British cities – Cardiff, London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast – and with experts including Experian giving tips about how best to stay safe online and how to guard against the threat of identity theft.
So many of us live so much of our lives online now, prime examples being social media, online shopping and online banking. Yet when it comes to choosing passwords, many of us fall prey to not wanting to have to remember something too difficult: choosing convenience over complexity.
Experian research has shown that the average Briton now has 26 different online accounts, protected by just five different passwords.
Nearly 20 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded online between Jan and June 2012. And some 90 per cent of the data traded consists of password and login combinations.
In fact, up to 30 per cent of people use the same password for everything they do online on a daily basis. And should that single password fall into the wrong hands, you could be rolling out the welcome mat to a cyber-thief.
Were a fraudster to get access to your personal data, then any password that includes your first name, surname, birthday, home town, wife’s name, child’s name, pet’s name and so on could potentially be fair game.
Experian recently ran a ‘Life in a Box’ online security experiment, with a volunteer who lived his entire life online for five days. The results were eye-opening to say the least, and have provided us with some great tips to share – with three top tips standing out from our findings.
Use a strong password and make sure you don’t use the same password for all your important accounts.
If in doubt, don’t click. If an email or website looks dubious, or that it may not be from the people they say they are, then leave well alone.
Check to see if the padlock icon is visible when interacting when any sites that require personal or private data, including usernames or passwords
Keep your passwords safe:
1. Avoid the obvious
According to Experian CreditExpert research, 20 per cent of us use the name of a pet as our password. Avoid using memorable words like these, especially those that may be on your profile or used elsewhere in your account details, such as a security question.
2. Find the right length
Try to keep passwords at least eight characters in length – 10 or more is preferable. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack.
3. Mix it up
Try to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Rather than words, use the initial letter of a memorable sentence. “I need to choose a new password right now” could become “In2c@nPrN”.
4. Find a system
Having a unique password for all your accounts can be daunting, but a good approach can be to base passwords on lyrics of your favourite songs or lines from films, giving a sequence of passwords that you can work through.
5. Protect your information
If you’ve tried all these tips and still feel you’d like more protection, then consider a web monitoring service such as a 30-day free trial with Experian’s CreditExpert, which alerts you if your personal data is found online somewhere it shouldn’t be. You can also visit www.getsafeonline.org to get free, practical and unbiased advice.