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Security & privacy

The biggest password mistakes Americans are making – Are you guilty?

Data breaches are becoming alarmingly frequent. If a company you do business with is hacked, your information may be at risk. There’s no way to know where cybercriminals will strike next.

What’s one of the first things you need to do if you are part of a data breach? Change your password. Tap or click here for more tips on how to take quick action and mitigate the potential damage caused by your exposed data.

Speaking of passwords, do you use the same one for multiple accounts? That’s just one bad habit you need to kick. A recent survey shows that many Americans are not using good password practices. Check out the results below.

Survey says

PCMag recently conducted a survey of U.S. readers about their cybersecurity habits. It turns out that people are putting their privacy and more at risk with poor password practices.

RELATED: Microsoft is trying to make passwords a thing of the past

Nearly 1,050 adults 18 and older were surveyed and 70% of respondents said they use the same password for more than one account. Of that number:

  • 25% sometimes use the same password for more than one thing
  • 24% use the same password for more than one thing most of the time
  • 21% use the same password for more than thing all of the time

These are all bad habits, but that last one is particularly dangerous. A cybercriminal only needs to get one password and they can get into all of your accounts. And your habits can also affect their chances of getting your passwords:

  • 45% of respondents memorize passwords
  • 36% physically write down passwords
  • 33% use password managers
  • 23% store passwords in their phone notes or other electronic device

Memorization is as secure as you can get, but a strong password should not be easy to remember. If you memorize a weak password, it can still be cracked. And if you’re using a different password for each account (as you should), it would be very difficult, if not impossible to remember that many unique and secure logins.

Check out what 33% of the respondents said. That’s what you should do.

Get a password manager

A password manager is an easy way to keep your accounts secure. They generate and store login information across your devices, including mobile phones, computers and tablets. Password managers can be installed as software or accessed through a website, browser extension or the cloud.

They can also store payment information, such as credit cards and CVV codes. They autofill your name, email address, phone number and shipping address when you’re online shopping. Password managers can even detect fake login pages, so if you end up on a phishing site, it won’t enter your info.

Many browsers come with built-in password managers, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge and Brave. You can read more about these browsers and their levels of privacy in our report.

More bad stats

The survey also asked respondents how often they change their passwords:

  • 33% change their passwords every 4-6 months
  • 26% do not regularly change their passwords
  • 23% change their passwords every 0-3 months
  • 18% go more than 6 months between changing their passwords

We understand that it’s a pain to keep changing passwords but you should change them now and then. Depending on what account it’s used for, a password should be changed at least every few months. The good news is a password manager simplifies this process. It does all the work for you.

The final part of the survey asked people how they protect themselves online:

  • 53% use antivirus software
  • 27% use a virtual private network (VPN)
  • 27% use privacy focused web browsers such as DuckDuckGo or incognito mode
  • 22% don’t use any online protection
  • 6% responded “other”

At the very least you should have a reputable antivirus program. Windows 10 and 11 come with antivirus protection, as has macOS for quite some time. But it’s a good idea to have trustworthy antivirus software on all your devices.

We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. You not only get continuous protection from the latest threats, but its AI-driven Web Shield browser extension blocks dangerous websites automatically, and its Junk Cleaner can help you quickly clear out old files.

Right now, get an annual plan of TotalAV for only $19 at TotalAV.com/Kim. That’s over 85% off the regular price!

Keep reading

The best free password manager to use on iPhones, iPads and Macs

What is an authenticator app and why should you use one?

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