October is designated as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with this event marking the 17th year that we in the cybersecurity community promote increased awareness on cybersecurity and privacy issues. After 17 years, you might think that we should be winding down; that we don’t have much left to say on this subject. The truth is the exact opposite. Every year more and more of our daily lives and services move to the digital world. Last year my family began doing most of our grocery shopping online and now this year due to the global events of 2020, most families, including ours, moved our children’s school online. Increased cybersecurity awareness it seems is needed now more than ever.
For this month, I wanted to share with you some thoughts and advice about passwords. You have probably read a lot of advice on passwords in the past like “make them long and unguessable”, “use a password manager”, or “don’t use the same password on more than one website”. All this advice is great, and I still recommend you do all of these steps. Most browsers have a built-in password manager that’s pretty good, easy to setup, and will even sync your passwords between your phone and computer if you use the same browser. However, the truth is that passwords by themselves are not enough to keep you fully safe on the Internet. I view password like a VCR or 8-track player. Old technology for the past that can’t keep up with today’s 4K, blue ray, and streaming Internet. Passwords provide a very minimal level of protection, but they need some help.
The good news is that help is already here, you just have to setup it up or turn it on. We call this additional level of security, Multi-Factor or just MFA for short. You also may see it called “Two-Factor” Authentication. You have probably already been exposed to it at your job or place of business, but it simply means using an additional level of security beyond a password. This might be a text message with a one-time code, an automated phone call, or a smart phone application. There are many different types of MFA setups. Personally, I use the smart phone version anywhere I can as I always have my phone handy.
So the question is where should you be using MFA. The easy answer is everywhere! Any place or website you use a password to login you should look and see if that website has MFA. Its usually tucked away in the account setting. You might be surprised when you find out that almost every important website you use today have some form of MFA features. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Paypal, Ebay, most email providers, any financial websites, etc. They all support MFA and I highly recommend you turn it on. Especially if the website has your credit card or gift cards stored or any place you make an online purchase.
Turing on MFA takes a little extra work but it makes a big difference in online safely. Criminals and hackers may be able to guess your password, but it’s much harder for them to also steal your phone.
A Big Thank You
Thanks to Michael for being our guest and creating this blog post.
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