The DANGERS of Password Recycling and How to Mitigate the Risks
Most of us are guilty of reusing our old passwords. Of course, no one likes the daunting task of having to come up with a complex and undecipherable mixture of alphanumeric characters. We also seem to doubt password managers that suggest complex characters, and instead, we want to rely on our memory.
We turn a blind eye to whatever suggestions we receive and reuse an old password across multiple platforms. It may sound simple, but using old passwords for more than one account can expose you to cyber-attacks and potential data breaches.
Read on to understand the risks associated with the habit and how to mitigate them.
Why Do You Reuse a Password?
Do you use the same password for every account or website? If so, the practice defeats the purpose of having a password in the first place. It would help if you weren’t so relentless on the practice as attackers could soon get hold of you.
While there are varying reasons people like recycling their passwords for different accounts, non should make you think you are invincible to cybercrime. Understandably, some people struggle to create unique passwords, while others don’t know that it’s risky to recycle a password.
Whatever the reason for password recycling, you risk severe consequences.
Dangers of Password Recycling
The practice soon becomes a habit, especially for people who don’t like using modern password management systems. The disadvantage of developing this habit is that it will become a haunting disease one day.
The habit is prevalent despite the availability of password management tools and security awareness promotions. A recent poll from Google showed that more than 50% of users are fond of reusing old passwords for multiple accounts and have no second thought about it.
The list below describes all the risks you are likely to encounter if you reuse your password.
You Jeopardize Your Corporate Accounts
If a data breach happens in one of your accounts, chances are other accounts sharing similar credentials will be at risk. This could be the case if you use the same password for your personal and corporate accounts.
A minor breach starting from your account could become a significant blow to the security of the entire organization and employees. Providing such a wide avenue for hackers to explore raises the probability of large-scale damage.
Multiple Accounts Exposure
Average internet users have multiple online accounts to acquire goods online and interact with family and friends. In most cases, the users apply one strong and perfect password for all the accounts, saving themselves some effort and time.
While password recycling seems a non-issue, it makes you vulnerable to cybercrime that could emanate from any direction. Suppose you use the same password for your Twitter, Facebook, Email, and online banking. It means that if Facebook suffers a data breach, all your Gmail, Twitter, and bank account information will be at risk since you have similar passwords for all.
Besides, you could be in for a nightmare if the shared password is also weak, as this would simplify the hackers’ job to compromise your online presence and activities.
Vulnerability to Brute Force Attacks
Brute Force attacks emanate from attackers guessing your login information by combining all the possible credentials. Obviously, recycling your password over multiple accounts would simplify hackers’ job. Notably, most people who recycle passwords don’t like jogging their memory and always come with easy-to-guess passwords.
Suffering a Brute force attack in one or numerous accounts leads to data breaches as cybercriminals use each new attack to access more passwords for future attacks.
Risk of Phishing Attacks
In a phishing attack, cybercriminals send out alerts, notifications, and emails posing as other trusted people. If you are not keen enough, you might think the email is legit from your employer, software developers, or Google. The primary purpose is to lure you into sharing personal information like your date of birth, passwords, username, etc., or download any attachment in the email.
Apparently, phishing attacks target anyone and not just people who recycle passwords. Nonetheless, they can pose a bigger problem if you have the same password across multiple accounts. Hackers could use the same passwords to compromise all your other accounts that they wish.
Mitigate the Risks of Password Recycling
The tips below will help you value your online security and ditch the password recycling habit.
Change your Password
Most of the time, people leave their passwords unchanged for long, making them vulnerable to third parties. The biggest mistake is leaving your default password, such as “1234,” unchanged. While the default passwords are easy for you to remember, they are the first thing cybercriminals try out when they come to your account.
Therefore, it’s wise to change your default password asap. Sure, you may not want to replace the password as you are likely to forget the new one, but if that’s the issue, you better use a passphrase.
Educate Employees on Dangers of Password Recycling
Businesses and companies should conduct a robust training session on matters surrounding login information and passwords for staff members. While the main objective would be to mitigate the risks of password recycling, the training should also address the following:
- Change password immediately you note suspicious activity.
- Avoid using services on public internet services.
- Never reveal your personal information to anyone (even co-workers) regardless of how legit the requestor seems.
Remember that providing good digital hygiene and password awareness among users is vital for a secure corporate network.
Utilize A Centralized Password Management Tool
Even if you can create complex passwords for all your accounts, you still need a reliable password manager. Some of the leading password managers like Last Pass will help you generate strong passwords and store them securely. The only password you need to memorize to access other passwords is your password manager.
Once you access your password manager, you can log into any of your accounts without the need to type in your passwords.
Embrace Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Now that you know the dangers of password recycling, you need to incorporate an additional layer of protection, especially if you still use one password for multiple accounts. Your account is protected through an extra set of credentials through MFA rather than the plain old password you’ve used from time immemorial.
When you have MFA enabled in all your accounts, you can’t gain access unless you enter a one-time password (OTP) sent to other devices or emails to verify you are the actual owner.
Password Security Should Be a Priority
With increased online activities, we all have several accounts and passwords to remember. We are also wary of creating unique passwords as we’re likely to forget them, and we end up in the trap of password recycling.
However, remember that passwords are a priority for defense against unauthorized access to your accounts. Therefore, the extra effort you put in to create unique passwords is worth it in the long run. So, while recycling is encouraged in other aspects of life, it shouldn’t be an option in password management.