4 reasons passwords fight on the front lines.
Chances are, you or someone you know — a family member, friend, colleague — has been a victim of identity theft or fraud. In fact, recent government figures put the number of American identity theft victims at more than 17 million. At the time of estimate, that worked out to approximately 7% of the population.1
IDENTITY- AND CREDIT-RELATED CRIME: WHY SO WIDESPREAD?
One reason is thieves still find such crimes profitable, to the tune of $15 billion dollars by at least one nation-wide estimate.2 It’s not just that criminals can steal payment or personal information and sell it on the black market for a few bucks. It’s also that, with enough of your personal information, criminals can pretend to be you, potentially accessing bank accounts and — even more dangerously — lines of credit in your name. Armed with fake credit accounts, criminals can rack up debt in victims’ names, sometimes without the victim finding out until months later. And unfortunately, these types of crimes, sometimes referred to as account takeover fraud or new account fraud, have been on the rise.3
Though all kinds of protections from and precautions against these types of crimes exist, it’s still the case that one of the most important things you can do to keep your identity and credit safe is to develop, use and vary strong online passwords. Here are 4 reasons why passwords still serve as the primary barrier between criminals and personally identifiable information.
1. IT'S AN ONLINE PROBLEM.
Though people still lose wallets and purses, fail to shred sensitive statements, and open themselves to countless other vulnerabilities in the physical world or over the phone, by and large, the issue of identity and credit security is an issue of cybersecurity. That’s because we store an ever-increasing amount of information online. And for criminals, especially those perpetrating credit-account takeovers or new account fraud, it’s where they get at least some of the information they need to piece together a compelling alter-identity.
2. WE HAVE OUR LIVES IN THE CLOUD.
It’s not just the amount of information stored online that’s increasing. It’s also the number of places and entry points. Cloud computing has made incredible technological progress possible: effortless mobile payments, internet-connected wearable devices, social media and email accounts for everyone — the list goes on and on. But with the internet conveniently at our fingertips, in our houses, at our workplaces and virtually anywhere else we need it comes the need to log into more accounts, in more locations, more frequently and, you guessed it, with more passwords.
3. CYBERSECURITY ALTERNATIVES ARE FEW & FLEDGLING.
Though exceptions exist, and it may not always be this way, the primary way we secure our identity and credit information, at least on the front-end, is still through traditional passwords. Fingerprint scanning has become a somewhat-mainstream security option for mobile phones, iris scanning technology shows promise, and two-factor authentication techniques draw on cross-device, temporarily-generated codes. But the fact remains, passwords are needed to set up, maintain and back up these alternatives. And to the degree most people still submit and maintain identifying and credit information online using personal computers, the access points remain, for the most part, password-protected login fields.4. EXISTING PASSWORDS ARE WEAK.
This fourth reason goes to why criminals still devote considerable energy online: hacking for valuable personal- and credit-related information is still relatively easy. That’s because passwords, in general, are weak. In fact, a recent survey of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. revealed 21% of people used passwords that were more than 10 years old and 73% of online accounts were guarded by passwords used for other accounts.4Another survey revealed facebook confronts hundreds of thousands of account hackings on a daily basis.
WHAT ALL THIS MEANS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO.
Just as the most important protection for most homes is still a strong lock and key, so are passwords for our digital domains. That means everyone should continue creating strong, varied, and frequently changing passwords to help safeguard our most valuable virtual belongings. This used to be hard, which is why so many people’s passwords remain dangerously weak and overused.
Enter the password manager. This technology solves the problem of having to remember the random, long and varied passwords you need to keep yourself safe. A great password manager should be easy to set up and use security of the highest standards. Armed with the right password manager, you can fortify your main line of defense — strong, securely stored and easily available passwords — as the battle for your identity and credit rages on.