5 simple tips to protect your Gmail, Facebook and other online accounts

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Ankit TutejaUpdated: Dec 01, 2016, 12:15 PM IST

Woman enters her password to log in to Facebook. Photograph:(AFP)

With online accounts containing a plethora of personal, financial, confidential and other sensitive details, it becomes imperative to protect them from hackers and keep them secure. Many of you would agree to it, but are you doing anything to beef up your online security?

Now before you start to scratch your head wondering what all can be done to keep your online accounts safe, we suggest you to hang on. Because we have some help to offer.

We bring you 5 simple tips that can help you protect your online accounts against hacks, password thefts and other cyber attacks.

1. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts: A lot of people go on to keep the same password for their multiple accounts so that they don’t forget them - or for that matter, just to save themselves from getting confused among multiple passwords. But we highly recommend you to not use the same password for your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Instagram and other online accounts. Because once that password gets compromised, it will expose all your online accounts to hacking and other cyber crimes. And you can think of all the damage that it can then cause to your digital life.

2. Create strong passwords: Accounts with weak passwords (like the ones with your name or birth date) are more prone to hacking. And therefore, it is advisable to have strong passwords for your online accounts. If you are wondering how to create strong passwords, here is a two-step guide. Firstly, always have a long password. And secondly, use a combination of letters, upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols like hash or the exclamation mark.

For instance, instead of simply choosing “mysecurity12”, keep something like this - MyS3cur!ty12.

If you compare the two, both passwords have the same number of letters, but you can see the difference in how the two have been framed. Indisputably, the one with the combination of letters, numbers and other characters is stronger than the other. And this reduces chances of your online accounts from getting hacked.

3. Opt for two-step verification: We don’t intend to scare you, but let us warn you that it’s easier than you think for someone to hack your password. But if you have enabled the two-step verification for your online accounts, you are in a much safer territory. Remember, that annoying page that sometimes pops up when you log in to your Gmail account and you just press skip and move on? Well, that’s Google’s way of reminding you to doubly secure your account. So remember this the next time you think of pressing that skip button.

But how does this help? So if a bad guy has stolen your password, he would still need to cross that second layer of security to hack into your account. And for that he would need your phone.

So it goes like this. The two-step verification process not only requires your password, but it also asks the user to enter a unique code sent to the registered phone if he logs into your account from a new machine. So the hacker may have your password, but it is unlikely for him to have ready access to your phone.

4. Change your passwords regularly: It’s a good practice to change your passwords at frequent intervals. Because you never know when your account details start to circulate among hackers. But by changing your passwords regularly, you can save yourself from prospective damages.

If you're too lazy to regularly change passwords for all of your accounts, at least do that for your major accounts that contain sensitive information  like your personal emails, or for that matter, your social networks.

And to help you manage and remember new passwords every now and then, a wide range of password managers are available online. They not only save you from remembering so many passwords, but also do the job for you every time you log in to an account.

5. Avoid linking accounts: Many of us often find it convenient to log in to a service using our existing Facebook or Google account, but we suggest you to drop this habit. Because by doing so, you link your different accounts. So it means if a hacker breaks into one of your accounts, he can easily access your other linked accounts. So avoid linking your accounts whenever and wherever possible. In fact, it’s a good practice to always sign up for a new service.