What do to Mitigate the Impact of Data Breaches

Our last blog post (found here) on data security called your attention to recent data breaches impacting over 500,004,600 people.  You may recall that the city of Ames was responsible for 4,600 and Marriott International for the remaining 500 million. 

This post has some pointers on how to create unique passwords as one way to mitigate the impact of these data breaches.

Just about every time you interact with a business, non-profit or government agency you are asked to create an account. 

  • Checking out at the grocery store? Create an account to receive coupons and keep track of your fuel saver points!
  • Running a report on your Social Security credits? Create an account!
  • Build a resume online and connect with colleagues on LinkedIn? Create an account!
  • Pay your bills through your financial institution? Create an account!
  • Upload files to your accountant? Create an account!

By my count, I have close to 400 different online accounts. That’s a lot of passwords to remember. Being creatures of habit, we tend to use the same couple of passwords over and over again.

The danger with re-using passwords is that if bad actors gain access to your password, they now have access to all of your accounts. The data breach by a single company risks exposing your data for all other accounts. By using a unique password for each account you can quarantine the impact of a data breach.

So, how do can you create a unique password for each account?  Security experts tell us that the best way to do this is to use a password manager. The basic concept of the password manager is that you create a single, strong password and use that strong password to unlock and decrypt your full list of all of your accounts and login credentials. As you create new accounts, you click a button and the password manager creates a unique password for you and stores it in the vault. The password mangers available these days are surprisingly user friendly and sync across devices, allowing you to pull up your password list whenever you need it.

If you have trouble remembering all your passwords, or tend to reuse the same password over and over again, a password manager may be a good solution to keep your data more secure. There are a number of password managers available on the market and you can read some reviews here: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-password-managers/ 

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