Why you should use a password manager and two-factor authentication

Passwords are an integral part of daily life these days now that so much of our interaction is online. And with how much information we put out there, it’s important to have a strong password so sensitive information stays protected. The importance of a strong password is not a new concept. It’s been around for ages. But these days, more and more information is shared across the online landscape. From banking apps to social media sites, your passwords are everywhere. And chances are you have more than a few accounts where a password is required.

I myself have what feels like too many to count. You might think in that scenario that I would just make things easy on myself and use the same password for everything. Or similar passwords that are easy to remember. However, that’s a terrible idea and not very secure. Surprisingly, a recent survey on passwords revealed that 15% of respondents use a pet’s name or other personal identifiers as their password or part of their password.

This is also highly insecure. Yet many people use these types of passwords anyway. Likely because they’re unaware of how bad of an idea it is. Or even more likely because they’re just not aware of current best practices for cybersecurity.

What you should do is use a varied set of passwords for everything. Ensure every account has a different password, created to be strong so it’s less likely to be cracked. The problem is that it’s hard to remember so many different passwords. That’s why you should also use two different tools to aid in staying secure that can also ensure you have access to the passwords to log into your accounts across the web.

I’m talking about a password manager and two-factor authentication. You might already use both of these tools. If you don’t though, you should. And it’s more important than you might realize. It’s also not a terrible idea to use a VPN to further secure your passwords as you enter them.

The importance of using a password manager

The biggest reason is one we’ve already mentioned. It can help you keep track of everything. As noted above it’s highly insecure to use similar passwords for different accounts, or worse, to use the same password for everything. So, you use different passwords for all your accounts. Maybe you change them every few months or maybe you don’t because you know you have a strong, unique password. The issue there again is that it can be hard to remember all that information.

This is where a password manager comes in. Instead of remembering a dozen or more passwords, you only have to remember one. The main password that opens the password manager where you can access all of your other passwords. Just like with your other passwords ensure this one is strong and unique so it’s not easy to crack.

There are lots of password manager options out there, but some more popular options include Dashlane, NordPass, Keeper, and Bitwarden. Most of these will have either free trials or a low monthly fee. Some will even be completely free. Although they may offer fewer features on their free plan compared to a paid one. The takeaway is that you should use a password manager to keep all your other passwords secure. Then you have less to remember but aren’t risking your personal information.

Don’t forget two-factor authentication

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The password manager is a good first step, but you should also be using two-factor authentication on every single account you have. It’s much too easy these days for passwords to be bypassed. Even when you have a strong password it’s not impossible to crack it. Using a strong, unique password only minimizes the risk of people figuring it out. It’s a drastic reduction in risk, but there’s still a risk.

Most accounts these days will have two-factor authentication you can set up. What this does is send you a one-time use unique password to log into your accounts every time you enter your username and password. The next time you log in, you’ll get a different one to use. This adds a second layer of security on top of your main password. And often these are sent through things like an SMS text message. You get a one-time code in a text, you enter that code into the designated field on the website you’re trying to log into, and then you’re good to go.

Another way to get a two-factor authentication code is by using an app like Google Authenticator. This is constantly generating unique one-time codes for you to use for login purposes. You have to set your accounts up with an app like this but once you do, the account you associate with it will simply tell you to “use a code” from your authenticator app to finalize the login process. It’s a quick and painless thing to do and putting your accounts into an authenticator only has to be done one time. From then on, you just have to grab that code when your accounts ask for it.

Use best practices for password security and you’ll be less at risk

If you weren’t already aware of how important cybersecurity is, hopefully, this article was able to provide a little more insight into why you want to take this stuff seriously. The last thing you want is to be the victim of a phishing scam and unknowingly give your password to someone who wants it for nefarious purposes.

By using best practices for keeping your passwords secure, like using a password manager and two-factor authentication, you leave yourself less open to security risks that could expose information you don’t want anyone else to have access to. In short, do yourself a favor and set these tools up as soon as possible. You’ll be better off for it.