Let’s switch gears for a bit and deal with some housekeeping about your online security and safety.
I bet most of you haven’t done this and you’ll be happy you did.
These are the two most important things you can do, today, to improve online safety and protect your accounts from being hacked.
The first, easiest and most important is to set up two-factor authentication wherever you can. “Two factor authentication” is a terrible name that must have been made up by engineer.
Let’s call it “get-a-text-to-make-sure-you-are-you” instead. Less scary, more accurate.
All “get-a-text-to-make-sure-you-are-you” means is that after entering your password (for your Gmail, for example) you get a code texted to your phone and you enter that too. You input this code only once per device, so it’s not a hassle.
Here are the steps for doing this in Gmail. Do this on your email client first, get comfortable with it, and then do it everywhere you can (especially online banking). The instructions for Gmail are (you can find this list, with pictures, here):
- Visit Google 2-Step Verification.
- Click ‘Get Started’, then click ‘Start Setup’
- Sign into your Gmail account.
- Click to turn on 2 step verification and enter a phone number under the “Voice or Text Message” option.
- Click ‘Send code’
- Enter the verification code sent from Google and click ‘Done’
- Check the ‘Trust this computer’ box if you’re on a trusted computer
- Click ‘Confirm’ to turn on 2-step Verification
OK, you’re a two-step authentication wizard! This means that you’re ahead of the 90% of people who haven’t taken this step. Give yourself a hand! (the crowd roars!!)
Now, on to Step 2, because you are brave, and this is also easy.
It’s using a password manager. With a password manager, you remember one, and only one, uber-secure password. The password manager stores all your other passwords and logs you in automatically to every site, whether from your computer or your mobile phone.
I researched this in depth about a year ago, and then started using LastPass. I love it. Not only is it more secure, but the frustration of never remembering my login for websites I use infrequently (benefits logins for work, car rental, airline websites, hotel loyalty cards) is a thing of the past. No more old, worn piece of paper with passwords—or its electronic equivalent. And don’t pretend you don’t have one of those, because you do.
Here’s a 30 second intro video to LastPass.
Look at you, child of the 21st Century! You’re logging in in with your one uber-secure password–your “last password”–to access all your passwords from your laptop or cellphone. You’re an internet security superhero! Plus, on your phone you can use TouchID or FaceID to make this seamless.
(if you really want to pay it forward, sign up with this link and I get a month for free. But I just learned that when looking for useful links to add to this post…that’s not the point at all!)
In addition to being more convenient, because you no longer are scrounging for passwords, over time you’ll start using more secure passwords. And don’t even try to tell me you’re not using the same password for 52 different websites, because we both know you are.
I use the LastPast Premium plan which costs $36/year, but you can also start with the free version. Either way, once you start using LastPass you’ll wonder what took you so long. If you want the full details, check out Tech.co’s latest comparative review.
And, since you’re a human being and you’re about to click to the next thing and do this “later,” don’t. At least, at very very least, do two-factor authentication right now.
Do that instead of reading this NYTimes article—The Two Online Security Steps You Should Stop Putting Off—because it just reiterates everything I’m saying in this post.
My job isn’t necessarily to share new stuff, my job is to help you do important things.
So prove me right and go do it.