I'll be the first to admit that I tend to get lazy with my passwords and have pretty much adopted the "it will never happen to me" mindset when it comes to getting hacked — after all, I'm a millennial, so that means I totally understand everything there is to know about the internet, right? Uh, wrong. No matter how tech-savvy you think you are, it never hurts to do a little extra research to figure out how to avoid being hacked online. We could all stand to be more careful when it comes to personal information we put online, and more rigorous when it comes to the passwords we use to protect that personal info.
So what's one quick and easy thing you can do today to lower your odds of being hacked? Make sure you don't have any duplicate passwords across your accounts. "Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that you’re taking all necessary precautions to avoid getting hacked online," Levi Dinkla, CEO of Digital Doc, tells Bustle. "Something as simple as a duplicate password on a site increases your risks for becoming a hacking victim."
I'm totally guilty of using basically the same exact password across all of my accounts — the reason, of course, is that it's easier to memorize just one password as opposed to dozens. But having duplicate passwords also means that, should a hacker figure out your password for one account, they then have free reign over all your accounts, meaning you'll have a much bigger mess to clean up before your accounts and sensitive information are secure again. If you're not confident in your ability to remember a bunch of different passwords, you can use a password management tool like LastPass to keep all your passwords in one safe, secure place.
"Getting hacked is a total nightmare that you never think will happen to you... until it does."
But it's not enough to just have unique passwords for each account: you also need to make sure that the passwords you choose are super strong and not generic or easily guessable. "Getting hacked is a total nightmare that you never think will happen to you... until it does!" Charlotte O'Hara, a web designer and developer, tells Bustle. "Whether it's social media accounts, email, banking information or even a website you run, you should always protect your security settings with a strong password. Don't use the generic 'password' password or 'yourname123' because that is way too easy to guess! One trick that works well is to use an old license plate [number] with a capitalized letter and symbol at the end (e.g., exclamation mark)."
Once you're confident in the strength of your passwords, making sure your cyber activity is secure comes down to being mindful of everything from the privacy settings on your browsers to the spam emails you get to how secure the public Wi-Fi networks you use are. (When in doubt, you can always use a virtual private network (VPN) when connected to public Wi-Fi: it will reroute your network traffic through the VPN servers instead of through the internet service provider, meaning your data is more secure.)
"Keeping things private on social media might sound like an oxymoron," Eva Velasquez, CEO/President of the Identity Theft Resource Center, tells Bustle. "After all, some of the benefits of the different platforms are to connect with people around the world but if you’re not aware of the privacy pitfalls that each different platform carries, you may be inviting a threat to your security."
Even though it might seem like a hassle to go through the process of making your online presence more safe and secure, it's nowhere near as frustrating as getting hacked and then having to undo all the damage done to your accounts by hackers. So if you have ten minutes today and know that you have weak or duplicate passwords for any of your accounts, it's worth your while to change those up — it might just prevent a huge hacking-induced headache in the future.