Teenagers have been briefed by their annoying helicopter parents about the do not’s of college life: don’t do drugs, don’t skip your classes, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. But there’s one thing I wish my mom had told me: don’t use the same password for every website.
Why do college students need to know this? Generation Z grew up online. We have technology. My phone has more than 20 apps installed on it. I’m sure other teenagers can relate (and I’d be surprised if they didn’t). In fact, the average person has a stunning 7 social media accounts. But what’s the risk here?
People (especially teens) are lazy when it comes to passwords. We get annoyed when our university forces us to change our password every year. And then we change it to our favorite pet’s name, followed by a sequence of numbers and one special character.
I’m sorry, but the password ILoveSparky7! takes a dude with a fedora sitting in his mom’s basement 15 minutes to crack. And no, changing it to your second favorite dog, Rover, will not make it any better. Sorry.
I’ll admit, I used to have a bad password. My old password is even on the list of the top ten thousand most common passwords list. Can you guess which one it is?
Weak passwords enable bad security. But bad security also comes from reusing passwords. How is this an issue? Well, social media and other internet sites have data breaches. They happen quite common. In fact, 16 of my online accounts have been involved in data breaches — and some of my passwords have been stolen. Using this information, hackers can potentially try logging into common social media sites using your account’s email and stolen password.
The next thing you know, someone may log into your bank account using a stolen password and steal your tuition money. Now the consequences sound serious.
Finally, one attack that everyone is susceptible to are social engineering attacks. These are attacks that focus on tricking the user. One of these attacks, called phishing, occurs when a user clicks on a link to a website that looks legitimate, but actually steals your password. For instance, an attacker may create a website that looks like the Facebook login form, but have it steal your data and send it to the attacker.
There are many solutions to all of these issues — like throwing away all of your technology — but I found that the best solution is to use a password manager. A password manager is a service that people use to store all of their other passwords. It even has the ability to randomly generate passwords that take a computer lightyears to crack!
There are a bunch of data security arguments to be made about using a password manager, but there’s also a laziness argument to make. With a password manager, you only have to remember one password for the rest of your life. This password, called a master password, is the key to your sacred Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Additionally, password managers solve the aforementioned phishing attacks. The reason for this is because password-managers typically auto-fill your account details, but this same capability will not work on fake websites made by attackers.
Is it hard to adopt password managers? Absolutely not! Just an hour of your life can make your account security infinitely better. And all of the most popular password managers have iPhone and Android apps.
Personally, I’m using the free version of LastPass. I was a little bit skeptical about using it, because I felt a little uncomfortable with my passwords being centralized in one location, but I was reassured with the knowledge that LastPass encrypts passwords in their database.
Again, only a little bit of time can be used to make your account passwords infinitely more secure. Us teenagers don’t think we have anything to lose if someone figures out our passwords, but the consequences are actually quite severe.
Imagine one day you receive an email from Snapchat indicating that someone has taken your questionable photos. Or imagine one day you get a call from your bank saying that your rent money check bounced because someone has transferred the money to another account.
In the age of information, all of this is a risk. So why take a chance? Use a password manager.