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Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID 19 & World Password Day …

The current COVID pandemic, besides threatening our very life, has thrown a fresh set of challenges. One of them is: Cyber frauds. With the lockdown, people, staying at home have become more dependent on various payment gateways to pay their utility bills, premiums, recharge their mobiles, buy medicines, groceries and vegetables online, etc. Such increased online activities have opened door for spyware and ransom ware attacks. And these attacks are sure to cause huge losses to individuals

Another development during the lockdown is our accessing social websites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc more frequently; watching movies and serials on Netflix, Amazon, HotStar, etc., and even playing online games by installing various applications. In the process of availing these services, people tend to give access to their personal information that is readily available on their mobiles, laptops, etc. Many a time, in the process of purchasing apps to access these services, financial information too is shared.

Banks, which are now working with skeleton staff, are advising customers to use internet banking/mobile banking services. Besides making phishing calls/sending phishing mails, with the RBI granting a moratorium by deferring payment of EMIs/interest payments, etc., cyber attackers are reported to be active in calling such loanees posing as bank employees and in the course of discussions relating to rescheduling of instalments, etc., subtly asking for passwords, OTPs, PIN relating to their accounts.     

Another important development during the lockdown is that many people have started working from home. Which means, accessing companies’ systems and data from home. So, any let-up on the part of the employees expose their company’s data to risk.   

The current pandemic has thus thrown open wide scope for online frauds. The only safeguard we have against these cyber attackers is our Password. And that is what the seventh May, designated as the ‘World Password Day’ reminds us, while also stressing the fact that how important it is for online users to strengthen their security posture by adopting good online practices to protect their own interests from cyber risks. For, “a password is the primary method used to confirm the identity of a user to gain access to a wealth of platforms and personal information”, says BSI authorities. They are the gatekeepers to our digital identities. They allow us to access our online accounts to do shopping, banking, etc.  So, cultivating good password habits is the sine quo none for protecting one’s data, property and business.

We are today operating a diverse set of accounts. Thus, the need for passwords to secure safe access to a diverse set of accounts has grown up phenomenally. The common tendency among us is to set a single password for the whole set of accounts. And that is the biggest risk one gets exposed to.  If a malicious person gets to know this password through phishing emails or by any other means, he would get unauthorized access to all the accounts and with that unlimited access he could inflict unlimited loss to the original account holder. Should the same password be used on personal as well as office/work account, the risk would be even more.    

So, to stay safe online, one needs to select a unique and complex password for different accounts differently, so that they cannot be guessed or cracked easily by the criminals. Some of the guidelines issued by experts for designing a strong password are listed hereunder:  
·    Passwords should contain a minimum of ten characters comprising uppercase and  lowercase letters as well as numbers and special characters a good password is a long password
·     One should not use personal information such as a part of an address, a surname, a spouse’s name, date of birth or the name of the platform the password is being created for, etc
·      Do not use a word that would be in the dictionary or letters that are sequential on a keyboard.
·   Consider using a ‘passphrase’ that does not make any sense and will not be forgotten easily, of course, with a mix of characters
·    Never use the same password across multiple accounts and add where possible multi-factor authentication and/or biometrics
·   Always ensure to access a platform online through a secure connection and refrain from auto saving passwords when prompted
·       Do not write down a password on a device or in a notebook.  
·   To keep online identity safe and secure, it is desirable to keep changing passwords at regular intervals. Also, never use the same password ever again.

As incidents of hacking and cybercrime are rising with every passing day, everyone is obviously worried of safety and security. And today many of us are active for most of the time on the internet. So, to keep ourselves safe, what we must learn on this World Password Day is to strengthen the passwords.

Image: Thanks to Gettyimages


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