Some online accounts are more important than others. You may not mind if a bad guy gets into your Spotify account and changes a few playlists, but you’ll probably mind if he takes over your social media accounts and starts posting inappropriate material. Likewise, if a hacker gets into your credit card, bank, or email accounts, they can do some significant reputational or financial damage. But if they get into your Netflix account, then what’s the real harm?
This is the kind of thinking you should apply when getting started with a Password Manager. And it makes using a Password Manager for the first time far faster, easier, and less intimidating. Many people have stayed away from Password Managers because the idea of moving dozens or hundreds of accounts into them seems daunting. We think that’s a bad reason to not protect your most important accounts. And recommend people move into Password Managers with only the goal of getting their key accounts onboarded in the first wave.
There are probably less than a dozen critical accounts that hold your most important data and assets. Those are the accounts you should prioritize moving into your Password Manager.
Let’s look at what should be your ‘key accounts’.
Your Email Account
The most important account for most people is their email account. Not only does it contain your personal correspondence, it is used to sign into all of your other accounts, so when someone takes it over they have the ability to reset and confirm password changes in your other accounts.
Your Financial Accounts
Your bank, investment, credit card, cryptocurrency, or payment transfer account (like Venmo, Square, or Paypal) can put your money, identity, and credit score at risk.
Your Social Media Accounts
Your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or other social media accounts could allow someone to severely damage your reputation very quickly. It would also enable someone to even reach out to your loved ones, family, bosses, or co-workers pretending to be you.
Your File/Photo Storage Accounts
Your storage and cloud accounts store critical data that can embarrass, support identity theft, and reveal extremely personal information. This includes your Apple account (photo backups and iCloud, Dropbox or other cloud storage).
Protect Your Key Accounts
Each of the accounts above need a long, strong, unique password. And these passwords need to be in a Password Manager because, by design, they should be hard to remember. A Password Manager will make it easy to enter them each time you need to access one of these accounts because it remembers the password for you, making it easy for you to get into your accounts, and making it much harder for hackers.
When all of these accounts are protected, you are well on your way to very strong personal privacy and security.
A Key Account Checklist
Here’s what you can do with a password manager to protect your key accounts, even if you’ve never used one before. It’ll take less than 20 minutes.
- Using the suggestions above, create a list of your key accounts.
- Purchase (or get a trial) for one of our recommended good password managers (Dashlane or 1Password).
- Install the Password Manager on your computer and mobile devices.
- Setup the cloud storage or sync feature so your passwords will be in both places.
- One by one, create a new entry for each of your key accounts.
- Use the password manager to generate a new password for each account. For these key accounts we strongly recommend passwords at least 12 or more characters long, with numbers and special characters (the password manager will let you define the length and complexity of your generated passwords). This step is extremely important as it’ll create a password complex enough to evade any password cracking tool.
- Use the password reset feature in the account to change your password to the new strong and unique password.
- Add the browser extensions for the password manager so it’s easy to drop in and use your new passwords whenever and wherever you need to log into these sites or apps.
From there, the password manager will essentially offer a one-click option whenever you need to log into the account so you don’t actually need to remember the complex password. The password manager does it for you.
Once you are comfortable with your password manager, consider using it for other accounts and for new accounts as you create them.
Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash