Over the past few years, there have been many alarming stories about database breaches, hacks and identify theft.

Without even googling “recent database breaches” I can recall a number of them, just off the top of my head: the Target credit card information breach, Yahoo email and account information breach, Sony, JP Morgan Chase – the list is extensive. Outlaws are everywhere, and all corners of the internet remain to be the Wild, Wild West. And while the threats are well known, many people have essentially thrown in the towel when it comes to protecting themselves online. With the increasing number of accounts we have online, trying to remember all of the passwords is a huge burden, and for that reason, many users make the critical mistake of using slight variations of the same password for all of their accounts. The major flaw with this logic is that all a hacker has to do is crack the code once, and then with a little work, they can access all of your accounts. And if a hacker is able to get into your email account, they can look for statements or other communications from your bank and other financial institutions and target your most sensitive accounts. So what are you supposed to do to protect yourself? My recommendation is simple: sign up for a password manager service. There are many companies offering secure password manager services, and about half of them offer this service for free. At Waldron, we use LastPass, but if you browse through the firms in the link above, you can compare all of the top rated services currently available.

LastPass provides a free password manager service linked to one email address and one computer or device; for multiple devices, you can upgrade to a premium LastPass subscription for $1 a month. Either way, there are major benefits to signing up:

1 – Once you have set up your accounts in LastPass, you can login to one account, and access all of your other accounts, with one click. To maximize your security, have LastPass generate secure passwords for all of your accounts. These passwords will be extremely difficult to hack, as they will have no relationship to any of your personal information or any of your other passwords. They will typically be a long string of unrelated lowercase and uppercase letters, intermixed with random numbers and symbols, none of which you will have to remember. You simply login to LastPass, click on the account you want to open, and LastPass will automatically log you in.

2 – All you have to remember is one password, your LastPass password. The good news is it’s easy to create a secure password if you follow the guidelines provided by LastPass, which you can read in full here, or which can be summarized as follows: to create a strong password use a pass phrase instead of a password. A secure pass phrase is any series of words which do not include your name or any other personal information. An example of a secure pass phrase is: my Car flies the Raptor Volcano. The benefit of using a pass phrase is that it is easy for you to remember, but extremely hard for a hacker to crack. And the more words that are in your pass phrase, the greater the security the pass phrase will provide. And because your pass phrase does not include any personal information, or any other information that could be gathered through a search online, there won’t be any clues to help the hacker out. By memorizing one secure pass phrase, you will be able to protect, and easily access all of your accounts in one location.

While there is no iron clad guarantee that you will never be affected by criminal activity online, by using a password manager and a pass phrase to access your account, you will increase your chances of protecting your accounts and personal information exponentially. And by moving your accounts to a secure password manager, you can greatly simplify the process of accessing them.

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