Passwords & Online Security
Passwords and these technical details can be overwhelming. Make a list, then prioritize, and take action in small steps. Your future self will thank you!
We’ve all done it at one time or another. We’ve used the same password for multiple accounts, or maybe just added a few numbers to the end for a slight variation. Keeping track of unique passwords and pin numbers can be a real headache, especially if you try to memorize them. I have an alternative!
Today you’ll learn how to run a password audit to see which of your accounts are using the same password, then how to securely create and organize new passwords, and how to make sure your online activity is not visible to others, especially when you are connected to public WiFi.
Run a Password Audit
It’s important to know which accounts are using the same password and if any accounts have been compromised, so that you can make updates and secure your information. Note: This will only audit passwords that you have saved. Access to audit can vary depending on your security settings.
A password audit will tell you if your saved passwords are weak or compromised and if the same login information has been used for more than one account.
- iPhone / iPad / Mac / Safari
- Go to Settings > Passwords (authenticate with FaceID or fingerprint) > Security Recommendations. All accounts with compromised passwords will be listed. For more detailed instructions for any Apple device, including Safari browser, use this guide.
- Go to passwords.google.com. Select Go to Password Checkup > Check Passwords. This guide includes complete instructions.
Organize + Secure + Manage Your Passwords
A password manager allows you to securely store all your passwords in one location that can be easily accessed and applied to accounts with a single password. The most important feature is the security of the service.
- Q:“But doesn’t this make my information LESS secure? Doesn’t that mean “the bad guys” could access ALL my accounts with a single password?”
- A: That’s exactly why it’s so important to use a password manager with strong security protocols, encryption, and verified third-party reviews that have tested the service for vulnerabilities. It’s also vital that you use a strong master password.
I personally use and recommend 1Password. It is widely respected for its robust security. There are plans for individuals, families, teams, and business. A free trial is available. While there is not a permanently free plan, the prices are very affordable and start at about three dollars a month when paid annually.
You can create specific profiles and organize your account information based on your needs and preferences. The password generator allows you to create strong passwords and select the length and characteristics such as special characters, numbers, capitalization, and more. No more using the names of your pets or high school best friends as a password! One of my favorite features is the share password function, which allows you to securely send a password, select the number of times it can be used, if an email or other verification is needed to unlock the encryption, among other settings.
This review provides a great overview of the features, benefits and limitations, and security analysis of 1Password.
Note: There are many password managers to choose from, however, many have also suffered hacks and security breakdowns, which puts the data of their users at risk. Based on my research and consultation of internet security experts, I choose to use 1Password. Make sure you are informed and find the password manager that works best for you.
Secure Your Internet Access: Use a VPN
VPN = Virtual Private Network. It makes your internet connection secure and invisible to others. You can also virtually change your location. For instance, if I’m traveling in Europe, I can make my location appear to be back in the United States, which is sometimes required to access bank accounts or other secure sites.
When to use a VPN:
- Every time you connect to public WiFi: at a coffee shop, at the hotel while traveling, or literally any other time you are on WiFi that isn’t yours and secured – even if you have to enter a password.
- I happen to know someone who would sometimes walk up to someone at a coffee shop and ask, “Excuse me, is this your password?” to show them how their online activity could be seen by others who were using the same WiFi connection. If you use a VPN, your connection and activity are private. (Obviously, the people were alarmed. This friend was never malicious with the info and never kept it!)
- Changing your virtual location with a VPN can also unlock streaming content in other countries. I can change my location to the UK, Australia, Canada, or India and get a whole new library of shows and movies on Netflix that isn’t currently available in the United States.
- Have you ever searched for airline tickets and found that the price only increases as you continue to search? If you use a VPN (and private / incognito browser), you can keep those searches private. Prices can vary based on the location where your search is located, even if the itinerary is the same. You may see different prices if you search for flights from Dallas to London with your location in the USA versus setting your VPN location to Germany or England or anywhere else. It doesn’t always save you money, but it can be worth the time investment.
- A simple online search can suddenly result in a bombardment of ads for that very product. A VPN can help keep that search private, which can be incredibly helpful when Christmas shopping or looking up that random thing you don’t want reflected in your search history.
Bottom line: If you value your personal information, privacy, and security, then you need to use a VPN.
I recommend two VPNs: ExpressVPN and SurfShark. I currently use ExpressVPN as their security reputation is slightly better, in my opinion, though I have also used SurfShark. The cost is very low for both services and can be used across multiple devices on the same account. You can get 30 days free if you try ExpressVPN.
This post contains an affiliate link, which means you help support my work by using the link when you make a purchase, but it doesn’t cost you a penny more. All opinions are my own. I only include products and services I personally use and recommend. It’s a great way to support small business. Thank you!
Hi, I'm Lisa
Photos have always brought me joy and are one of my favorite mediums for storytelling. But let’s be honest, the sheer volume of digital photos we all have can be overwhelming. It’s my goal through Scissortail Digital to help you enjoy, use, and organize your photos so you can go from jumbled to joyful!