Your Double Life –
At this point everyone has one, so there’s no sense in denying it. There’s the life you live, and the life you post: Your digital life. Given the recent security breach at Target, and a couple of high-stakes digital hijackings involving the twitter usernames: @N and @mat (those are links to their stories). I’ve found myself scrambling to find some kind of digital ‘bullet-proof vest’ to wear online.
At this point you may be thinking, “Well – I never shop at Target, and I hardly use twitter.” and if you’re about to merrily click over to Facebook to stalk—er, “skim through” a friend’s profile. Let me throw some other names out to get your attention:
GoDaddy, Amazon, PayPal, and Apple
All of these companies were involved in some way with the hacks of @N and @mat (the links to the stories are above – take the time to read them!) and while I am not pointing any fingers of blame at these companies, if you’ve used their services, or services like theirs: Listen up – this applies to you.
I’m not going to go into detail on those stories, you can read them for yourselves. What you ARE going to get, is 3 simple things that you can do to prevent the brutal murder of your double life.
1. Backup Your Data.
And no, I don’t mean pushing the floppy disc icon on all of your word docs. Backing up your data is simply transferring the information on your computer to external storage (this could be a cloud server, a hard drive, etc…). While this won’t necessarily up your security – it will give you a ‘safety-net’ to fall back onto if you ever are compromised. Think of it like a ‘redo’ if you’re assassinated online. It would’ve saved @mat from a lot of heartache:
“Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.” – Mat Honan (emphasis added)
Backing up your data is simple, and there are plenty of low cost options available. Here is the WikiHow link to get you started.
2. Set up 2-point verification wherever possible.
2-point or 2-step verification is something that has begun to gain increasing popularity. It means you set up your account so that whenever you try to log in, a text message is sent to your cell containing a code you must then enter to gain access to your account. What that means is that even if someone gets your account name and password, they will be unable to log in and hijack your information without also having swiped your cell phone. If you’re like me and your Google Account/Gmail is something of a ‘grand central station’ for your online life – this is a must. (And in typical Google fashion, they’ve made it pretty painless to setup: Click here!)
3. Don’t use the same password for everything.
Surprising that this even needs to be said? Maybe. But does that stop people from using the same password for everything from their Facebook to their bank account? No.
THIS IS A BAD IDEA.
I mean, I get it – you have a “thousand different accounts for a thousand different things” and you really “only use one or two of those regularly so you can’t expect me to remember so many passwords!” and your password of, “myhipsdontlie” is un-guessable. Right. It’s just easier to use one password or some variation of that password for everything. Then you’re not trying to remember a novel full of alpha-numeric key codes with 1/2 of them being case sensitive.
My advice? Bite the bullet and make sure you’re using some variety. I myself can’t keep track of shoes, let alone passwords. So use a password vault like PasswordSafe to keep everything straight. Also if you use any sort of online banking, I’d suggest a unique password solely for that purpose – use it nowhere else.
I could keep going, but those are three simple things that don’t consume too much time and will help you to stay on top of your online security. I think most of us assume that we’re fine because we’re just a drop in the proverbial ocean of faces online – it’s statistically unlikely that ‘they’ will come after us.
And you’re right, the odds are that unless you do something to make yourself a target, you’ll probably never be the ‘random victim of the month’. But when a burglar is picking his next mark, he’s starts by looking for the unlocked doors & windows.