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The Importance of Unique Passwords for Your Online Accounts

By Rob Henderson

Do you have different and unique passwords for every one of your online accounts? If not, you may want to consider the information we’re providing here today and get to changing those passwords! While password security is a topic we’ve covered in the past, today we want to use some recent headlines to illustrate why it’s so important to have a unique password for each account.

Plain Text Piracy

With recent news involving Facebook’s improper handling of user data, many issues are coming to light about not only the company, but its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. One of the news stories that’s resurfaced recently is a Business Insider piece on how Zuckerberg hacked into a Facebook users’ private email account in 2004. However, the method he used to gain access to these accounts was fairly simple and illustrates the need for unique passwords for each of your online accounts.

In short, Zuckerberg looked at private login data from Facebook and particularly the failed login attempts from the user accounts he wanted to access. These failed logins seem to have been stored in plain text. (A big data security no-no.) So while the correct password may have been properly hashed for security, the incorrect versions were readable by Zuckerberg and presumably, he was able to guess the correct password the users were utilizing.

This wouldn’t have been a big issue if the users only used that password on Facebook, as Zuckerberg would’ve most likely had access to any of the information they had on Facebook at the time. Instead, the users were also utilizing those same passwords on their Harvard email accounts and because of this, Zuckerberg was able to log into those accounts and read user emails.

Creating Unique Passwords

When considering password security, it’s important to understand all of the ways your accounts are vulnerable. Beside the example given above, where a wayward employee digs into failed login attempts, hackers can also gain access to your login information through phishing attacks. These attacks involve creating a fake landing page that appears to be a standard login portal for your account, but when the information is entered, it’s forwarded on to the hacker in plain text format. These attacks are difficult to spot at times and even the most tech savvy people have been snagged by them.

One of the best things you can do to increase your online security is utilize a password manager. This allows you to create unique passwords for each account you utilize and only requires you remember one master password to unlock the password manager. Password managers are great because they can create longer and more complicated passwords that would be difficult to memorize. This would be particularly useful against the method that Mark Zuckerberg used to access the accounts, as a miskeyed password would be difficult to guess if it wasn’t based on a word or a phrase. (2ty34W_ftek! for example.)

Strong and unique passwords are just one important part of remaining secure online. Now that you’re finished up with this article, you can download a good password manager and get to work updating all your passwords! Already utilize a password manager? Consider running through and updating your passwords on a regular basis. Remember, you can never be too safe when it comes to online security.

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