We disdain cookies and passwords so much that we expose our sensitive data to hackers who never need to invade our computers, phones, or tablets to get it. There’s so much information about each of us out in there, yet we use skeleton keys instead of padlocks to protect what we can.
You can adjust your cookie settings to limit tracking cookies, but website operators make it cumbersome – because they want advertisers and merchants to pay them for ways to track you across the internet and sell you stuff. Cookies get a lot of notoriety because of that, but they also serve useful purposes. They enable a site to direct you properly to the areas you need to go to and display appropriately for your browser and device.
Tracking cookies are another matter. They can tell anyone who plants a tracking cookie on your device where you go, and that’s creepy on the one hand and dangerous on the other.
I generally ignore all those cookie messages or just accept all cookies. I feel that many trackers already have information on me, and I am confident I’m savvy enough to avoid online traps. You should be, too, if you follow us regularly. The ads and even the phishing expeditions are a royal annoyance, but you’re safe if you’re smart.
Tracking cookies get dangerous when they converge with weak passwords. This affects business and personal internet use, and here’s how cybercriminals get you.
Once cyberstalkers know where you go, they can make some guesses about your username, which usually has an element of your name or your entire email address, and they have software to try to crack passwords. If you have a weak password – such as the first initial, last name, and 123 that a friend who got hacked used – they’ll crack it. And if you use it at multiple sites, they’ll get into every one of them. And they never had to get into your computer to get into your accounts. The clues were out there to find your bank account or credit card number to clean you out or go on a shopping spree.
The problem, of course, is with a weak password and the lack of a password manager. As an aside, if you are hacked, we use your cookies to see where you’ve been and see if something there has led to someone getting your info and maybe your money.
Finding a strong, unique password or several really strong passwords that you can easily remember is not that hard. What’s an odd association with your name or something you see when you look out the window? What’s a number that’s not tied to your birthday, phone number, or something else that could be part of your public record? What’s a random word that relates to nothing? Where can you substitute a number or special character for a letter? Following that process, any combination of 12 to 16 characters should give you a strong password.
If you combine a strong password with a password manager, you can let the password manager generate random strings of letters, numbers, and characters that become strong passwords. And if your password manager and the websites you visit have facial recognition capability, it’s simpler, stronger, and even faster.
We can help you configure a password manager for individuals or groups, and we can help with improving your password security. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and develop a plan.