Safeguarding your privacy online: Pass notes on Passwords

jennifer lawrence online privacy.jpg
Last month the issue of online security raised its ugly head yet again when an anonymous source leaked hundreds of intimate photos of high profile women. And while most of us might not be as high profile, our data and information about ourselves is precious - these ways are a solid foundation to prevent your privacy being breached.
These tips are a solid foundation to prevent your online privacy from being breached.

Last month the issue of online security raised its ugly head yet again when an anonymous source leaked hundreds of intimate photos of high profile women. Technology experts speculated Apple's online storage service had been hacked or, possibly more worryingly, passwords and security questions had simply been guessed to access the celebrities' individual accounts. Whatever the means, it got us sweaty palmed about how safe our own images and personal details really are, in a world where it's increasingly difficult to avoid leaving digital footprints direct to our front doors.

Of course, there are countless ways we can minimise the risk, and lots of companies are charging a small fortune to cyber-secure you to the hilt. To us, however, the most obvious starting point is good old fashioned passwords - and some newfangled of ways to keep them out of the wrong fingers. According to Forbes, choosing not to password protect your devices is "the digital equivalent of leaving your home or car unlocked", but having one is just the beginning....

1) Choose a good one

It's not enough these days to add '123' to the end of your favourite football team or first pet. But struggling to think of something memorable and secure? Try the five simple tips below:

- Capitalise every other letter
- Substitute numbers for letters, for example a 3 for an E, a 0 for an O
- Punctuation also makes a canny swap - an ! for an i perhaps?
- Add a memorable date to it
- Do all of the above - and then spell it backwards for good measure

2) Change it regularly

Like your pants, passwords should be refreshed pretty often. At least once a year, according to the experts. More frequently if possible.

3) Mum's the word

Never divulge passwords to anyone, even a customer service representative from a company you recognise. Reputable firms, like banks, will only prompt certain characters to verify your identity. Say, for example, the first, third and fifth ones. Like that useful pant analogy above, it's never wise to leave them on display so password-scrawled post-it notes stuck to your office computer screen are definitely out. And beware of offering passwords that are demanded via email. In these scams, individuals received an email linked to a website that looks like it came from the reputable company, often a bank or other financial institution. The email usually states that there's a problem with the customer's account and requests the customer's username and password. This type of scam is called spoofing or phishing - and you're the first line of defence against it. Never provide these details in response to an unsolicited request. If you have any questions or want to validate the authenticity of a communication, you can always contact the firm directly, usually by sending a secure message via their website.

4) Safety in numbers

Don't rely on just one password for every online account you possess. Instead, employ a password manager. Nope, not a pin-striped senior leadership type touting 'open sesame' codswallop, but a software application that helps a user store and organise numerous passwords. The beauty of the service is it allows you to use unique codes for every site you access, so if the security of one is comprised, the others won't necessarily fall victim too. You can get a password manager relatively cheaply - some even come free - and they're available for all platforms, including mobile.

5) Do the two-step

Turn on 2-step authentication, a simple feature that asks for more than just your password. It requires both "something you know" (like a password) and "something you have" (like your phone or online banking key card). After you enter your password, you'll get a second code sent to your phone or fob. You need both methods of verification to access your account, making it doubly secure because, even if someone gets your password somehow, they won't be able to use it to sign into your account.

Here's to some secure surfing in future!