Make Managing Passwords Easier and More Secure
Have you ever been at a login screen and entered your “go-to” password only to find out that it doesn’t work? What’s worse is when your fallback “go-to” password also doesn’t work...
It’s a huge task keeping up with dozens of different usernames and passwords for your online accounts. This article will discuss some ways to make doing this easier and more secure.
What are some things we have to look forward to in discussion? One, we’ll see WHERE to store passwords for easy, yet secure access. Two, we’ll see how we can use one account across multiple logins where possible. Three, we’ll see some best practices on how to increase the overall security of our online accounts.
Making Managing Passwords Easier
To get started, let’s discuss the best place to store our passwords. Where do you store your passwords for easy reference?
If you’ve answer included being written on a sticky note, notepad, or anywhere else that someone could easily access and/or find the password in plain sight this section is for you.
If you’re used to saving your passwords in your web browser or on your device, but your device usually stays unlocked, there’s some useful information in this section for you too.
If you’re used to saving your passwords in your browser or on your device, but it says locked….stay put.. you may be able to learn something new too.
For those of us who like “writing things down” whether physically or digitally, doing this with passwords can get us into a lot of trouble. How so?
If someone were to access the place where we store our passwords, they now have access to our online accounts. All that’s left for them to do is to just sign in.
How could that happen? Well if we make physical notes on our computer screen or written in a tablet near our computer, anyone could walk by and see and or take a picture of our passwords for their reference later.
What about if we’ve noted our passwords in a notepad on our computer or our phones? The same applies if the phone or computer is not locked and someone gains unauthorized access to it.
So what can we do to keep these passwords safe that are being stored this way?
For one, this article’s intention is to make it easier for EVERYONE; so if you insist on writing your accounts and passwords down on paper, either store them out of sight and/or lock them up somehow.
For an added measure for those who write things down whether physically or digitally, you can self encrypt your written passwords by writing them down in such a way that only you understand.
For example: let’s say one of your passwords is Mypassword#1, you could store your written password as M*********#1 to help you remember what the password is, but make it extremely difficult for someone who might have accessed your stored password list.
The easiest methods:
One of the most popular methods for storing passwords is to use the password manager built in to your device or to use a third party password manager that stores all your passwords in one place for easy reference.
Apple and Android devices have built in passwords managers that integrate with the default web browsers on these platforms, but as stated before, if these devices are left unlocked and accessed all your passwords could be compromised.
So again, device locks can make these passwords inaccessible in the event your device is lost or stolen.
Another method for easier password management is to reduce the number of password that you have to remember altogether. But more online accounts, mean more passwords right?
Not necessarily. There’s a way to sign on to multiple accounts using the same account, this is known as Single Sign-On or SSO.
SSO allows you to use your Google account, AppleID, social media accounts, and other account types to sign into various different online accounts.
In order for this to work, the other online account would have to support this SSO functionality with account you wish to use.
There’s also a caveat. If you notice that you can use SSO for an online account that you’re already signed up with using a non-SSO username, signing in with SSO instead of your normal account could mean that you’re creating a completely new account separate from the one you already have.
If you feel this is the case, you may have to contact the vendor of the online account in question to see if they can convert your existing account to SSO using the account you wish.
Now that we’ve covered how to make managing passwords easier, let’s take a look at how to make our accounts more secure.
Making account access and passwords more secure
We’re not talking about making passwords more complex here, that’s actually discussed in this article: https://www.itechtx.com/post/how-to-protect-your-private-electronic-data
What we’re referring to in this article is making these accounts more secure by not overusing one particular password for every account.
Why is this important for security? If we use the same username and password for multiple online accounts (of course we have to do this with SSO, but we’ll touch more on this later), we run the risk of compromising several accounts at once.
What that means is if the username and password to one online account becomes compromised, then all other accounts using that same username and password also become instantly vulnerable to compromise as well.
For this reason it’s a best practice to use unique username password combinations so that in the event an online account becomes compromised (this can happen on the account vendor side at any time even if you’re unaware of it.)
So to reiterate, it’s a best practice to use different usernames/passwords combinations for these online accounts wherever possible.
What about with SSO? The point of SSO is to make it so that you CAN login to multiple accounts using one username and password, so what can we do to make our SSO logins more secure?
Since our SSO accounts are such an important account type it’s best to treat it as such and periodically change the password to the account based on the sensitivity level of the logins it has access to.
Instead of making a general one size fits all rule here, it’s best for each individual to determine how long is long enough time for a password reset for these accounts to take place.
For instance, you may decide that because your SSO account has access to your bank information that it should be changed every 60-90 days. Again the choice is up to you, but important that it’s done to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.
Another thing that can be done to secure our online accounts is to add Multi-Factor Authentication or MFA.
Multi-Factor Authentication can be added to an online account by combining another method of authentication in addition to your password.
For example, if you login to your health insurance benefits page, you can require that a text message be sent to your phone containing a one time access code that must be entered at login time.
This way if your username and password has been compromised, the person who has your credentials will not be able to login to that account unless they also have your phone on hand.
Also, since you’re being sent a text message from this online account, you now know anytime your account is accessed without your consent and this can prompt you to change your credentials securing your account even further.
There are other methods of employing Multi-Factor Authentication to our online accounts. Instead of a text message, we can have an e-mail sent. There are also authentication applications that keep a time based token that would require you enter the one time password that’s generated by the application on a device of your choice.
Of course the method of MFA for each online account may vary, but the ones mentioned above are the usual suspects.
Although not directly related to online account security, Multi-Factor Authentication can also be implemented on our personal devices to serve as an added security measure in the even that these are lost or stolen.
On Computers and Laptops:
If we want to implement Multi-Factor Authentication on our computers and laptops as an added measure of security, it usually will require a combination of two different types of authentication.
What we mean by this you’d likely have to combine together at least two of the following: something you know (like a password or PIN), something you ARE (like a fingerprint scan or facial recognition), something you HAVE (like a USB key or smart card), and can also be very specific like something you DO (how you type) or somewhere you ARE (your geographical location).
For example you could require that to login to your computer you could require a fingerprint scan and a pin number or else login is not possible.
On Cell Phones and tablets:
Usually on cell phones and tablets there’s one authentication method used to get into the phone or tablet such as a pin number, password, facial recognition, or fingerprint scanner.
However, on many phones and tablets nowadays there’s also an additional locking mechanism provided by the manufacturer such as an activation lock.
This would require that if some unauthorized user had access to a device and attempted to wipe it clean and use if for themselves, they’d be met with a login screen to your manufacturer specific account in order to use the device.
If they can’t provide this login information the phone or tablet to them becomes a paperweight, totally useless…
Again although this section on our personal devices is not directly related to securing our online accounts as has been the focus of much of this part of the article, it does indirectly relate in that if we secure our devices we secure any access to our accounts from these devices.
Managing passwords and keeping our accounts secure can seem to be daunting tasks in themselves, but hopefully this article provided some practice suggestions that your can apply and making all of this a little easier.
We hope you enjoyed reading and as always feel free to share to your favorite social media platform or with someone else you feel may benefit what what was presented here.
Also, if you liked this article be sure to check out our other blog posts as well. Thanks for reading!!