You may or may not have heard that a group of Russian hackers recently got their hands on about 1.2 billion (yes, billion with a B) usernames and passwords and 542 million email addresses. Not to scare you, but the chances that they missed yours are pretty low. Don’t panic just yet, the firm that discovered the theft reports stated that the group mainly just sends out spam about fake products trying to get you to buy them. With all that being said, it’s time we stepped up our game when it comes to keeping our accounts safe. Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk.

Use Different Passwords

passwordI think a lot of people are guilty of this one, using the same password for everything. I know I’ve done it. Think of this as using the same key to get into your house, your car, your office, etc. If someone finds that key, they can access everything. Another tip is to make the passwords long with the use of numbers and special characters. This is a requirement for most logins these days, but even if it’s not a requirement, you should still do it. Now that you’ve found yourself with long, complicated passwords it’s time to get yourself a password manager. There are tons of apps that allow you to use them as a virtual vault. They hang on to your login info for every site you visit (don’t panic, the data is encrypted) and to unlock this virtual vault you need to enter the master password.

In the same vein as my previous suggestion, it is important to change your password every 3-6 months. I know this can be a pain, but it’s a relatively easy way to protect yourself.

Go the Extra Mile with Critical Accounts

You can set up a two-step login for most of your accounts. This is especially vital for things like online banking, email, and online investing.

Create Throw-Away Email Addresses

This is basically creating an email address that you don’t really care if it gets hacked. These are great for websites that you need to submit your email to view the content. Use more secure emails for things like online banking and the throw-aways for things like Pinterest. This also may seem like a bit of over-kill but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Be Careful with Hotspots

computer-coffeeWi-fi hotspots are never very secure. In fact, it takes practically zero hacking ability to monitor what’s happening over the network. Please don’t be fooled by the “secure” wi-fi at your local coffee shop. If the password is written somewhere on the counter or given out to whoever asks for it, it might as well be an open network. I know I’ve been guilty of accesses important information while using a hotspot while out shopping and seeing that really cute bag and having to double check your bank account to see if it’s even a possibility, the whole time I’m thinking “please don’t get hacked, please don’t get hacked.”

I know you probably read these things and thought “Ugh, but these just seen like such a hassle!” But really, these are all small things that could keep your online identity safe.