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5 Simple Ways to Secure Your Online Account (July 2024)

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Online identity theft and fraud are rampant in an increasingly digital age.  Thankfully, a variety of easy steps can be taken to make your accounts significantly more secure.

Importantly, being aware of the following steps is not enough.  One needs actually to prioritize security and put it into practice.  When one fails to do so, look to the Securities and Exchange Commission for what may happen.  With that in mind, the following are steps that all should routinely utilize.

1. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-Factor authentication (2FA) is a security process that provides an additional layer of protection for online accounts beyond just a username and password.  The purpose of 2FA is to make it more difficult for unauthorized individuals to access an account, even if they have a password.

As it stands, there are various ways of approaching 2FA.  This includes SMS, authenticator apps, hardware security tokens, push notifications, and biometric verification.

It should be noted that not all methods of 2FA are equal, with SMS approaches typically being viewed as the most reliable.  For the vast majority of people, the approach that strikes the best balance between convenience and security is using an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Authy.

The bottom line is that 2FA significantly enhances account security by ensuring that even if a password is compromised, unauthorized access is still unlikely, as potential thieves would also need to be in possession of a second designated device.  It is a simple safeguard that is highly effective and easy to implement.

Regardless of the type of account being secured, if 2FA is offered, users should take advantage of this and activate it.

2. Password Managers

Password Managers are tools designed to help users securely create, store, and manage their passwords.  This is typically achieved by simplifying the following processes – each of which is crucial to ensuring each account is secure.

  • complex password generation
  • unique passwords for each account
  • encrypted password storage
  • autofill sign-in

All that is required for a user to benefit from a password manager is for them to remember a single master password, and from there, the application will simplify the entire process.  Password managers usually work across mobile and desktop platforms and can cater to the needs of an individual or a business.  Unfortunately, password managers remain woefully underutilized.

3. Software Updates

Another simple approach to ensuring online security is by keeping your device up-to-date.  This simple act is critical, as it ensures that patches for security vulnerabilities that have been discovered since the last version of the software was released.

Whenever a device receives a new feature, new avenues for attack are opened, and with the typical smartphone user relying on scores of different apps, the issue is amplified.  As a result, hackers continuously look for and exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to systems and data.

Simply put – by regularly updating operating systems, applications, and security software, users can protect themselves against known threats.

4. Log-In and Log-Out

This one might be the easiest step of all – logging in and out.  Users can minimize unauthorized entry to their accounts by adopting good log-in and log-out practices.  This means avoiding features like automatic login – especially for apps and websites that deal with important data (i.e., online banking).  This also means logging out of apps and websites after each session.

Where these steps become extremely important when accessing public networks as these often lack any implemented measures to ensure they are secure, are rarely monitored, and can result in man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks that see nefarious parties re-route traffic connected to the network.

Yes, logging in and out of a site/service each time can be a pain, but it is a simple practice that can prevent unwanted access to one's accounts and sensitive information – especially on public networks.

5. Education

Finally, we have education on popular scams and techniques used by thieves.  The easiest way to spot that something is ‘off' is to understand approaches taken by those looking to steal from you.  Some of the most popular include phishing attempts, blackmail, ransomware, Ponzi schemes, romance scams, and more.  Notably, with the rise in AI, such techniques have become more sophisticated, going as far as to include deep fake videos of kidnappings to extort funds from would-be victims.

Regardless of the approach taken by thieves, having the ability to recognize each of these scams goes a long way toward protecting oneself from being taken advantage of.

Final Thoughts

Convenience can be a trap.  Yes, it is easier to utilize auto log-in features and to simply forgo activating steps like 2FA.  However, at the end of the day, a single hack can ruin lives.  In most instances, convenience does not outweigh the use of such measures to properly secure accounts.  So, for all reading this – activate 2FA, check out a password manager, update your devices, be mindful of your log-in/out practices, and above all – educate yourself on common practices and how these steps can save you from becoming yet another victim.

Joshua Stoner is a multi-faceted working professional. He has a great interest in the revolutionary 'blockchain' technology.