Q. I read weekly about private email and company databases being hacked and the importance of strong passwords and security. What advice may BBB provide?
A. Great question and to the point; when is the last time you reviewed the passwords to your bank account, e-mail or credit card accounts?
Now is a good day to do it. Why? Thursday was National Password Day in the U.S. Together with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau is sharing tips to make your passwords more secure.
» Make your password long, strong and complex. That means at least 12 characters, mixed with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid common words, phrases or information in your passwords.
» Do not reuse passwords used on other accounts. Use different passwords for different accounts so that if a hacker compromises one account, he can't access other accounts.
» Use multi-factor authentication, when available. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
» Consider a password manager. Most people have trouble keeping track of all their passwords. Consider storing your passwords and security questions in a reputable password manager, an easy-to-access application that stores all your password information. Use a strong password to secure the information in your password manager.
» Select security questions only you know the answer to. Many security questions ask for answers to information available in public records or online, like your ZIP code, mother's maiden name, and birth place. That is information a motivated hacker can obtain. Don't use questions with a limited number of responses that attackers can easily guess — like the color of your first car.
» Change passwords quickly if there is a breach. If you receive a notification from a company about a possible breach, change that password and any account that uses a similar password immediately.
For more information on keeping your information secure, check out the FTC's article on Computer Security, www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles. And visit www.bbb.org for tips on identity theft.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.