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May 28, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Password Protect Your Devices

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The world we live in today is a “smart” one. Smart devices number in the billions and range from smartphones to home thermostats. In general, they make life easier but there’s often a trade-off. Many smart devices put our privacy at risk, meaning any stranger with a computer and some knowledge of hacking could access your information. However, there are several ways to prevent this from happening to you.

One such way is by adding a password to all of your portable devices, including smartphones and laptops. Most devices include private information about us, including our name, email addresses, phone numbers (along with those of our friends and family), banking information, passwords, social media and even more. If a device without a password falls into the wrong hands (for example, you leave it at a restaurant and someone takes it), all of your information may be compromised. However, if you password protect your devices, you secure yourself and your data.

In general, best practices include:

  • Using a long password
  • Making the password unique
  • Using something impersonal
  • Getting artsy
  • Turning off screen notifications

Using a Long Password

Simply put, the longer your password, the harder it is for your device to be hacked. Some devices only allow you to use a four-digit PIN but where possible, write out a more complicated password. Most recommendations suggest using between 8 and 12 characters. We recommend keeping it to 12 characters minimum, and going longer if possible.

Making the Password Unique

In a recent survey, the most vulnerable passwords were also the most widely used. They included “123456,” “111111,” “qwerty,” “abc123,” and the old classic, “password.” While those passwords might be easy to remember, they’re also easy to guess and put your information at risk. Instead, using something with a blend of letters, numbers, and symbols, as well as capitalized and lower-case letters.

Using Something Impersonal

Because the best passwords are unique, it’s usually easier to create one that means something to you, so you remember it easily. However, passwords that are too personal also put you at risk because the most common ones include details about you that can easily be found elsewhere. Avoid using your name, birthday, anything to do with your social insurance/security number, your phone number or the names of family members and pets. Anything you may have mentioned before on social media or that is easy to guess like your favourite band, food, and colour should also be avoided. The National Cyber Security Centre in the UK recommends using three random, but memorable words in your password.

Getting Artsy

Some devices (mostly Android) allow you to trace a pattern as your device password. It’s a secure, easy to remember (and somewhat more fun) way of securing your phone. However, a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that most people use a predictable pattern. The study learned that the majority of users start their pattern in the corner of the screen, and draw out a letter (most often their first initial). Using something different than that will help ensure more security for your device.

Turning Off Screen Notifications

One last step to take is to turn off your lock-screen notifications. Even if your device is password protected, losing it can still be harmful if a thief can see your notifications. They might be able to learn enough information about you and your life to do some serious digital damage.

To help you craft the strongest and most memorable password, check out our blog post on just that. This will help you password protect your devices as effectively as possible.

At HotBot, privacy matters.

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