The dangers of password reuse and how to avoid them

In today’s digital world, we rely on countless online accounts for everything from banking and shopping to social media and email. Each of these accounts requires a password, and it can be tempting to reuse the same one for convenience’s sake. But hold on! Resisting the urge to reuse passwords is crucial for protecting your online security.

Find out why it is risky to reuse passwords and explore some easy-to-implement strategies to keep your online life safe.

Why reusing passwords is risky

Passwords serve as keys to your digital life. If someone steals that key, they can unlock every account related to it. Say you reuse your password for a retail store website and a social media platform. If hackers breach the retail store’s database and steal your login credentials, they’ll likely try the same username and password combination on your social media account. If successful, they could take control of your social media, impersonate you, damage your reputation, or even steal your identity.

This shows how reusing passwords is akin to using the same key for every door and locked storage unit in both your home and your business. If a burglar finds that key, they can access every aspect of your life.

According to cybersecurity experts, cybercriminals obtain most passwords through the following means:

  • Data breaches: Breaches happen more often than you might think. Companies store user data, including passwords (sometimes in encrypted form, but not always). If hackers breach a company’s database and steal this information, they can try your reused password on other accounts, hoping to gain access. Password reuse exposes you to a domino effect — one compromised account becomes a gateway to all others.
  • Credential stuffing: Stolen usernames and passwords are often sold on the dark web. Hackers can use automated tools to try these stolen credentials on other websites in a technique called credential stuffing. Even if the compromised site isn’t that important to you, a successful credential-stuffing attack can still be dangerous. Hackers may use the breached information to launch further attacks such as phishing emails tailored specifically to you.

Strategies to avoid password reuse

Given the risks of password reuse, you and your staff must create a more secure online environment for your business by doing the following:

  • Come up with unique and strong passwords: The foundation of online security is using unique and strong passwords for every account. A strong password should be no less than 12 characters long and utilize both lowercase and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Change passwords as needed: Nowadays, you don’t need to change your passwords routinely just for the sake of it. But changing passwords becomes a necessity if your password is compromised due to any of the following: 
  • Malware infection on your device
  • Suspected hacking of your account
  • Accidentally sharing your password
  • A data breach
  • Use password managers: Remembering numerous unique passwords can be daunting. Thankfully, there are password managers you can use to securely store your passwords, as well as generate strong, randomized passwords for you. Examples of popular password managers include Dashlane, LastPass, or 1Password.
  • Turn on multifactor authentication (MFA): MFA creates another layer of security that requires a second verification step in addition to your password when logging in to an account. The second step usually consists of a code sent to your phone or even a fingerprint scan. MFA makes unauthorized access much more unlikely, even if your password has been compromised. Whenever possible, activate MFA for all your accounts.

Take control of your online security

By following these simple procedures, you can greatly improve your online security. Always keep in mind that making a bit of an effort today can spare you considerable hassle in the future. But if you find all these are a bit overwhelming for you and your staff, don’t worry. You can always partner with a managed IT services provider like Interplay IT. We can help you and your staff keep your IT system safe and secure, even tailoring our services to your IT needs. 

If your company is located in Seattle and nearby areas, and you need managed IT services, contact us today.