According to reports, an average person has 90 online accounts. And 29% aren’t even sure how many they have. That’s the state of our online account activities. And the pandemic has made things worse. Many of us, it seems, have 25% more account passwords after COVID-19 than we did earlier. Clearly, the pandemic restrictions that drove people indoors have also led them to consume more digital services and left them with even more online accounts.
And this has now become a growing concern for many individuals. Password security, in particular, is facing increasing threats from cybercriminals, who’ve been launching attacks with twice the vigor during the global health crisis. So, the more accounts you have, the higher the risks of an account breach and countless ensuing threats.
But, what type of accounts are we talking about?
The truth is, any account could be compromised with a security threat. However, there are a few account types that are in high usage. And as a result, they attract more cyber villains. Here are the most common account categories that demand more of your attention.
• Email accounts – There are more than 3.9 billion active email users worldwide. Gmail alone claims 1.8 billion of them. And many people have at least one email account in use for work and personal activities.
• Social media – Over 3.8 billion people are on social media as of 2020. That’s more than half the global population. So, you’d likely have profiles set up in multiple social media platforms, too, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok.
• Bank accounts – The monthly jump in new mobile banking registrations has been as much as 200% for some banks following the COVID-led stay-at-home orders. Digital banking adoption has accelerated at an epic scale, with many people now having online banking access.
• Online shopping – The pandemic has also seen online sales surge for eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon, while high street retailers scrambled to strengthen their digital presence, too. The result is inevitable: more people owning multiple online shopping accounts.
• Entertainment – Many people have also sought comfort in digital entertainment as they stayed stranded indoors for the most part of 2020. This means more accounts and subscriptions for movie streaming sites such as Netflix, music and gaming websites, as well as others in this category.
• News sites – If you prefer to consume news digitally with a daily newsletter from a site like Quartz or by browsing a news website such as CNN, then you would have naturally signed up for a personal account with them, too.
• Devices, apps, and software – The regular devices you use, from your smartphone and laptop to your smartwatch, as well as apps and software installed on them, will have multiple accounts with your personal details. Just think about Microsoft accounts, Apple IDs, communication apps like WhatsApp and Zoom, and even those fitness apps that track your daily step count, heart rate, or the number of hours you sleep.
Quick steps to protect your accounts
If you’ve written down a list of all personal accounts you own right now, then you likely have an idea of the massive digital data trail you’ve created as a result. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed just thinking about data security, here are 4 quick steps to protect your accounts from unwelcomed prying.
1. Use reliable passwords to set up a strong first line of defense.
Passwords provide an easy protective barrier to keep your accounts safe. But it’s the single most neglected tool by many account users. According to a Harris Poll study, an alarming 66% of Americans use the same password for email, online banking, and social media accounts. Many are even using common phrases and easily guessable information such as their birthday in them. These mistakes could be detrimental to your account security.
So, ensure you adopt sound password practices. Particularly watch out for password length and using different types of characters. Two-step verification is even better to make it harder for cybercriminals to access your accounts.
2. Keep accounts private.
How you keep your accounts private will depend on the type of accounts you hold. Of course, as a first step, avoid oversharing or publicizing your account details. For instance, try not to give out your personal email address to register for services and marketing promotions. Keep a separate email to use in such instances.
Many of these accounts will also come with privacy settings. These might allow you to hide your profile from search engines like Google and opt out of data collection and sharing.
3. Shield your digital activities.
You should also avoid unwanted spying on your account activities if you want to keep them secure. So, use a VPN to encrypt data and keep your digital presence anonymous. Also, avoid cookies to prevent unnecessary data tracking. Browser safety is equally essential. Delete cookies, browser history, and cached files every few days.
4. Keep an eye out for suspicious activities.
Regular monitoring is critical to identify early warning signs of an account breach. So, remain vigilant and adopt proactive measures to detect unusual activities. Google, for example, will let you check when and how your Gmail accounts have been accessed.
In addition, you can monitor sent emails in your outbox and posts on social media accounts. You should also review your bank statements and credit reports once a month for any unfamiliar activities. Immediately investigate if you notice anything suspicious.
Minimizing account usage is always the best option if you’re worried about data security. Cut down on excess profiles you’ve created and limit your account portfolio to what’s absolutely essential. If you’re having trouble determining which accounts to close, weigh up the potential security threats against the level of convenience and ease each account could offer. If it’s not worth the risk, then it’s time to delete it.