New Password Guidelines Help Protect Your Online Data Against Cybercriminals

It’s that time of year again when businesses and individuals alike are making holiday plans and shopping for client gifts as well as for family and friends. In today’s busy society, cyber shopping has become the norm. Let’s be honest—we all do it because it is convenient and it saves time.

With all the hustle and bustle, we might overlook our cybersecurity during the holidays making us prime targets for cybercriminals.

To help protect against cybercriminals stealing identities, Tax Help Advisors, LLC, the IRS, state tax agencies, and the nation’s tax industry urges people to review new, stronger standards to protect the passwords of their online accounts. Doing so will help protect against cybercriminals who want to access people’s accounts and steal their identities.

There has been some new thinking as to what constitutes a strong password.

The latest guidance suggests using a passphrase such as a favorite line from a movie or a series of associated words rather than using a password. The idea is to create a passphrase that can be remembered easily and protect the account. This means passwords like – “uE*s3P%8V)” – are out. Longer, personal phrases people can remember are now preferred.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, suggests three steps people can follow to build a better password:

  • Step 1:  Leverage powers of association. People can identify associated items that have personal meaning and use them in their passwords.
  • Step 2:  Make unique associations. Passphrases should be words that can go together in your head, but no one else would ever suspect.
    • Good example: Items in a living room such as BlueCouchFlowerBamboo.
    • Bad example: Names of children or pets.
  • Step 3:  Create a passphrase that you can picture in your head. The key is to create a passphrase that is hard for a cybercriminal to guess, but easy for the user to remember.

In addition to creating strong passwords, people can:

  • Use a different password or passphrase for each account. Consider using a password manager, if necessary, for multiple accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Do not rely on the passphrase alone to protect sensitive data. Multi-factor authentication means returning account holders need more than just their username and password to access an account. They also need, for example, a security code sent as a text to a mobile phone.
  • Change all factory-set passwords. Do this for wireless devices such as printers and routers.

At Tax Help Advisors, LLC we are committed to working together with the IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry to fight against tax-related identity theft and to protect taxpayers. We urge you to be cautious during this season of busy online shopping and take the necessary steps to protect your online data.