stronger passwordIt’s drilled into our heads time and time again to create strong, unique passwords for our online banking accounts, email accounts and any other account that involves financial and personal information. But how strong is your Netflix or Xbox Live password? It can be tempting to use a short, easy-to-remember password for these types of online services because you might not think they’re at risk. Sadly, as cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs recently revealed, any account you pay for can make a profit for criminals who steal and sell it on the Internet’s many black market channels. If you know where to look online, you can find a treasure trove of stolen accounts for paid online services like Netflix, Xbox Live, Spotify and more to purchase. Even scarier, services that allow mobile payments — like the Starbucks app — and feature an auto-reload feature put users’ bank accounts at risk of being drained. So what’s the solution?

Create stronger passwords for every account you have

Password management can be a chore these days, what with most people having dozens of accounts they use for everything from convenient coffee purchases to checking their bank accounts to streaming the latest Britney Spears album. How can you stay on top of things and keep your accounts secure?

1. Never repeat passwords. One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to passwords is using the same password across accounts. Doing this increases your risk of having your accounts compromised. If a hacker gains access to your email account with one password, they may try that username/password combination on other websites to see if you reuse logins. Use a different password for every account you open, and make sure each one is complex. Rather than a single-word password, opt for a multiple-word phrase and insert spaces, punctuation, capitalization and numbers in logical places for a stronger password. Worried you might have trouble keeping track of all your passwords?

2. Use a password manager. Password managers are helpful programs that store your passwords in the cloud (or on your computer) and keep them secured with one master password. Some even help you generate new passwords, as well as auto-complete forms and logins so you don’t need to (thus reducing your risk of getting caught by keylogging software). You can purchase or download a dedicated password manager, or take advantage of an Internet security software suite that includes a password manager. Norton Security’s Identity Safe lets you store passwords as well as other sensitive information, such as your credit card information, for safe browsing and online shopping. It also features a password generator to help you come up with stronger passwords.

Staying safe online is largely a matter of taking the time to ensure you are using the best security measures you can. No account should be viewed as “safe” from hackers, especially if it’s something you pay for. Follow our identity theft protection blog for more tips and information about online security.