Protecting your personal information and online identity is crucial, especially as cyber threats continue to gain traction. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics to get unauthorized access to sensitive data, and having your credentials compromised poses a significant threat. In fact, last year 55% of identity crime cases reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) were due to compromised credentials.
In this blog, we provide you with ten actionable ways to safeguard your digital identity, focusing specifically on how to prevent compromised credentials.
How Can Your Credentials Become Compromised?
First, it’s important to understand how cybercriminals can compromise your credentials to begin with. Here are a few common ways that online scammers can gain access to your usernames and passwords:
- Phishing: Cybercriminals trick you into revealing your usernames, passwords, or other sensitive information by posing as trustworthy entities.
- Data Breaches: Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in systems to gain access to a large number of user credentials.
- Credential Stuffing: Attackers use leaked usernames and passwords from one website to attempt unauthorized access on other platforms.
- Malware: Malicious software, such as viruses or spyware, can infect your devices and be used to steal your credentials.
- Keyloggers: These covert programs record your keystrokes, including your usernames and passwords, without your knowledge.
- Social Engineering: Cybercriminals manipulate and deceive individuals into divulging their credentials through psychological manipulation or impersonation.
Why Is It Important to Protect Against Compromised Credentials?
Having your credentials compromised can lead to severe consequences, including identity theft, financial loss, and reputational damage. Cybercriminals can exploit stolen usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to your accounts, compromising your personal and financial information. It’s vital to prioritize the protection of your digital identity to mitigate these risks and maintain your online security.
Here are 10 practices to prevent yourself from falling victim to compromised credentials:
1. Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Creating strong and unique passwords is the first line of defense against having your credentials compromised. Follow these best practices with it comes to creating strong and unique passwords:
- Incorporate a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, and punctuation marks.
- Refrain from using details that could be guessed without much effort, like your name or the date you were born.
- Ensure that each online account has a unique password to minimize the impact of a potential breach.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Utilize two-factor authentication (2FA) if it is available. This provides an extra protection measure by requesting a separate confirmation, like a special code sent to your cell phone, in addition to your password. Even if your credentials are compromised, 2FA significantly reduces the likelihood of unauthorized access.
For even better protection, consider using an authenticator app such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. These apps generate time-based, one-time passwords (TOTPs) that are used as the second factor for authentication. Authenticator apps provide more security than SMS-based 2FA because they are not susceptible to SIM card swapping or interception.
When setting up an authenticator app, make sure to follow the instructions provided by the app and securely store the backup codes provided. These backup codes can be used to regain access to your accounts in case you lose your mobile device or it gets reset.
3. Use a Password Manager
It may be beneficial to utilize a password manager to create and store strong passwords for all your online accounts. Password managers eliminate the need to remember multiple passwords while ensuring they are strong and unique. They encrypt your credentials and protect them with a master password, adding an extra layer of security.
Password managers offer features like automatic password generation, autofill capabilities, and synchronization across multiple devices. They also often provide additional security features such as two-factor authentication and biometric unlocking.
When choosing a password manager, consider factors like ease of use, cross-platform compatibility, and the level of encryption and security measures employed. It’s essential to choose a reputable password manager from a trusted source and keep it regularly updated with the latest security patches.
4. Regularly Update Passwords
Regularly updating the passwords for all your online accounts, ideally every few months, is crucial for maintaining strong digital security. Cybersecurity experts recommend this practice to stay ahead of evolving vulnerabilities and potential hacking attempts.
5. Be Cautious With Emails and Links
Exercise caution when engaging with emails and clicking on links, particularly when they solicit personal information or account credentials. Stay vigilant against phishing attempts, as they frequently impersonate genuine emails or websites. Prior to sharing any sensitive information or accessing suspicious links, always verify the authenticity of the source.
6. Connect to Secure Networks
Only connect to secure and trusted networks, especially when accessing sensitive information or making online transactions.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks that are unencrypted, as they can be easily intercepted by cybercriminals.
- Utilize virtual private networks (VPNs) to add an extra layer of encryption and protect your online activities.
7. Browse Secure Websites
Ensure that the websites you visit have a secure connection. You can do so by looking for the padlock icon in the address bar and checking if the URL starts with “https://” instead of “http://.”
Secure websites encrypt data transmitted between your browser and the server, reducing the risk of eavesdropping or data interception.
8. Regular Software Updates
Be sure to keep your operating system, applications, and web browsers up to date. Software updates often address vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to gain unauthorized access to your system. It is advised to turn on automatic updates to your software to make sure you are kept safe from the most current security risks.
9. Implement Multi-Level Access Control
Implement multi-level access control measures, such as unique usernames, strong passwords, and role-based permissions for different accounts. This helps limit the potential damage if one account is compromised and prevents unauthorized access to critical information.
10. Stay Vigilant and Monitor Activity
Maintain a proactive approach to safeguarding your online accounts by regularly monitoring them for any signs of suspicious activity. Use IdentityIQ identity theft protection services to stay informed in real-time. With IdentityIQ, you receive immediate alerts regarding any unusual activity, ensuring you are promptly notified when your personal information may be at risk.
Protecting your digital identity from compromised credentials is a crucial aspect of maintaining online security. Follow the ten proactive measures we listed, including practicing strong password hygiene, enabling two-factor authentication, and staying vigilant against phishing attempts, to significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks.
Remember to prioritize your digital security and utilize the identity protection services offered by IdentityIQ services to further safeguard your digital identity.