We’ve all been in that situation: you forgot to click on ‘remember password’ on Twitter so you have to manually enter your login details. You enter your username, followed by your password, click enter, when suddenly – ‘your username or password is not recognised’. The panic strikes, you rack your brain thinking “how many letters are in my first pet’s middle name?” and before you know it you’re already thinking of the dire consequences that will follow after the hacker who is clearly looking through your direct messages broadcasts them to your followers. Finally, you remember you forgot the number 3, and you begin to scroll through your feed.
Now, imagine if that happened to your e-mail, or your iCloud, or your actual phone. Many celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, have had their private lives intruded and their personal photos have been leaked all over the internet. While most people talk about how the celebrities should not have took the pictures anyway or how the people they trusted with the photos should not have let them loose so easily, it begs the question – how safe are you on the internet?
Of course, we are told a million times by our parents, family members and teachers that the internet is public, and that we should be careful with what we post. However, the idea of security is not as well documented as it should be, and it has only been recently that Facebook and Twitter has told us more about how to make our profiles more private.
It is completely understandable why people make a username and password that’s memorable, but we make sure it’s memorable so we can log in. The public wants easy access to social media, and Twitter have even released a statement saying they will be using the standalone app Digits in order to gain easier access to their website using only your phone number and a one-time PIN without having to type in your password. However, it does not stop someone else from being able to access your social media.
Password strength: weak
Making a password and answering a security question already seems like a pretty secure way of keeping account details and our lives in a private setting. But every company asks for the same thing: “create a password that is 6 characters long, with at least one capital letter and one number” followed by “please select from one of the following security questions” where you’re presented with a drop down box asking your mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name or the name of your primary school. How about you mix it up a little? Use something memorable for your password, but change the way you type it. The password “password123” becomes “PaSsWoRd 321” and already you’re giving someone a harder time to access your account. Change your mother’s maiden name to your father’s first name or first pet’s name to your current pet’s name and the hacker has a hard time guessing who’s who in your family.
It may seem simple, and you might be thinking “how does all this make a difference?” but according to StopTheHacker.com, it takes just ten minutes for someone to guess a lowercase password with just six characters in. However, if you add a number, two more characters and a few uppercase letters, that ten minutes turns into three years.
Why overcomplicate my social life?
This may seem like a lot of effort for a few social media websites and your online shopping may take longer when you’re adding extra security to your account, but protecting yourself from hackers is crucial. You may think no-one would want to access your account, but they aren’t just looking for your private messages to the guy you don’t want your friends to know about, or the surprise you’re throwing for your grandma, they’re looking for every aspect of your life. Every step they take in gaining access to your online life is one step closer to finding something you don’t want to share with the world.
While it’s obvious to say “don’t post nude pictures of yourself” and “don’t watch inappropriate videos” (to put it lightly), the best thing you can do is to seriously not do it. However, if you do find yourself in the situation where you have done something that could be exposed, then make sure your account is impossible to penetrate.