In a previous post I utilized the 80-20 rule to the realm of cybersecurity. My purpose was to inspire you to take motion to guard your self from identification theft and/or monetary loss. I proposed that you could obtain an excessive amount of safety with a minimal of effort.

Particularly, I urged you to freeze your credit score experiences and discover ways to spot and keep away from phishing scams. That submit generated some wonderful reader comments. Some dropped at mild worthwhile factors not explicitly lined within the submit.

In as we speak’s second and last submit on the subject, I’ll current two extra, easy steps you’ll be able to take to get even additional safety from the cybersecurity menace atmosphere.

Use Multi-Issue Authentication

After freezing your credit score experiences and avoiding phishing scams, utilizing multi-factor authentication (MFA) is probably the following finest step you’ll be able to take to guard your self from monetary loss.


Let’s begin by defining some phrases. Authentication means proving you’re who you say you’re to some third celebration. For our functions, let’s assume this third celebration is an authenticating system.

An authenticating system might be an internet site or smartphone app for a financial institution, a brokerage account, an e-mail account (e.g., gmail, icloud), or any on-line system that requires authentication for entry.

A issue is a method by which to show (or authenticate) your identification to an authenticating system. And multi…effectively, you already know what multi means. Put all of them collectively, and also you get MFA.


Let’s take a better take a look at elements. If you log in to an authenticating system with a username and password, these bits of data–collectively often called your credentials–are one issue of authentication. On this case, that issue is one thing you know.

In case your credentials match what the authenticating system has on document, that system will belief that you’re who you say you’re, and grant you entry to the system.

Your driver’s license is one other issue of authentication. On this case, the issue is one thing you have. If you current your driver’s license to the site visitors cop who simply pulled you over for rushing, the cop compares the image of your face to the one sitting behind the steering wheel. In the event that they match, the cop is aware of (or is no less than moderately positive) you’re who the license says you’re, thereby authenticating your identification.

And when your fancy new iPhone makes use of facial recognition to unlock your gadget, that is but a 3rd issue of authentication. On this case, the issue is one thing you are.

Including only a second issue of authentication to a single-factor protocol makes it significantly tougher for a cybercriminal to impersonate you.

Motion Objects

As with including a credit score freeze, establishing 2-factor authentication (2FA) is simple. Practically all respected monetary establishments with a web-based presence provide handy 2FA setup. In the event that they don’t, then they don’t take safety significantly.

Log in to your establishment’s web site or app, navigate to your profile and choose safety settings. This course of will differ, however probably solely barely, from firm to firm. Then observe the directions to arrange 2FA.

As soon as 2FA is energetic, each time you submit your username and password to the web site or app, it should immediate you for one extra bit of data earlier than granting you entry. This extra bit of data–sometimes a random six- to eight-digit quantity the web site generates every time you submit your credentials–is known as a token.

The web site sends this token to your smartphone by way of textual content message. On this mannequin, your smartphone is the 2nd issue of authentication; i.e., the one thing you have.

What does this appear like from the attitude of the cybercriminal? Effectively, even when he will get maintain of your credentials, he received’t have the ability to log in to your account with out additionally having your smartphone. And the probability of his buying your credentials and your smartphone is much lower than that of buying one or the opposite individually.

Therefore the facility of 2FA to guard your accounts from unauthorized entry.


Many establishments are starting to supply 2FA by way of an authenticator app, which replaces the textual content message-based mannequin described above. On this mannequin, the token comes from an app put in in your smartphone, not a textual content message despatched to it by the authenticating system.

The benefit of utilizing an authenticator app is that the token is certain to your gadget, not your telephone quantity. The distinction is subtle, and lots of will argue it is vital sufficient to favor authenticator apps, however I disagree.

Right here once more, the 80-20 rule is instructive. On this case, it means activating 2FA with textual content messaging will purchase you 80% safety over plain previous single-factor authentication. I’d go additional and say 90% to 95%.

For my part, the marginal enchancment afforded by app-based 2FA will not be definitely worth the effort. It could even be counterproductive; say if it’s important to set up a unique app for every authenticating system you utilize. The extra complexity will not be solely inconvenient, it might result in much less safety.

Furthermore, the chief draw back of message-based 2FA cited by proponents of app-based 2FA may be mitigated by locking down your phone number along with your service supplier (e.g., T-Cellular, Verizon, and so forth.). That is one thing it is best to think about doing anyway.

If the authenticating system doesn’t provide the message-based variant, and as a substitute requires you to make use of an authenticator app, then I might say it’s higher to make use of app-based 2FA than none in any respect.

Final Phrase

2FA is an easy and efficient approach so as to add an additional layer of safety to your high-value on-line accounts.

Think twice which of your accounts qualifies as such. These may embrace not simply financial institution and brokerage accounts; but in addition e-mail, insurance coverage, social safety…just about any account or system that incorporates info you need to hold out of the palms of dangerous actors.

Use Robust Passwords

The fourth and last to-do on my cybersecurity guidelines issues passwords.

Passwords are unquestionably the weakest hyperlink within the chain of on-line, digital safety. You might be solely as robust because the weakest hyperlink within the chain.

A giant cause for that is the laxity with which many people deal with our passwords. It’s no marvel why that is the case. It appears we’re always being requested to arrange some new on-line account, forcing us to commit one more password to our overburdened reminiscence cells.

In consequence, we invent easy-to-remember passwords; or worse, we write them down on Put up-It notes and affix them to our laptop screens.

Right here once more, nevertheless, making only a small funding of effort will web you a complete lot of safety.


Understanding why it’s such a nasty thought to make use of weak passwords helps to know how cybercriminals exploit them to steal our property and identities.

Cybercriminals use wordlists that include commonly-used passwords–lots of of hundreds of thousands of them. Generally-used means not simply phrases within the dictionary, or in style word-number combos (Password1), and even intelligent variations thereof (P@ssw0rd!). The wordlists additionally include lots of of hundreds of thousands of passwords which have beforehand been uncovered in information breaches.

In 2016, for instance, 164 million e-mail handle/password pairs had been stolen from LinkedIn. Mine was one in every of them. Because of this the e-mail handle and password I used to log in to LinkedIn till 2016 is, and can ceaselessly be, in hackers’ wordlists.

I’ve since modified my LinkedIn password. Furthermore, I’ve not reused this password for some other account since (nor will I ever use it once more).

The LinkedIn breach is however one in every of thousands of data breaches during which passwords have been leaked, and thus discovered their approach into ever exploding wordlists.

Until you’ve been dwelling in a cave all through the web period, no less than some of the passwords you’ve used previously (or are presently utilizing) are in these wordlists. And similar to your social safety quantity, your leaked (or in any other case horrible) passwords are simply ready to be exploited by a cybercriminal.

Motion Objects

As with 2FA, begin by figuring out your high-value accounts. These are those you need to shield with good, robust passwords.

Create one robust password for every such account (i.e., don’t reuse the identical password throughout a number of accounts). Then log in to every account and alter your current password to the brand new robust one.

You need to use a single password for every account as a result of, if the password is compromised, the harm might be confined to simply that account. Credential stuffing is a method hackers use to take advantage of password reuse. Keep away from this through the use of only one password for every account.

What constitutes a powerful password? Two elements make the most important distinction right here: predictability and size. That’s, the much less predictable and longer the password, the higher.


Let’s briefly look at these two properties, beginning with predictability. Predictable phrases (Password), phrases (MySuperSecretPassword), word-number (Password1) and even word-number-symbol (P@ssw0rd1!) combos are dangerous password selections. They’re simply guessable, have probably been used earlier than (and due to this fact leaked), and are thus current within the wordlists.

As an alternative, you need your passwords to be random, as a result of randomness is the enemy of predictability. Sadly, random passwords are onerous to recollect (that’s the reason we select predictable, and thus weak, passwords within the first place).

However a random password needn’t be troublesome to recollect. Random multi-word combos (CorrectHorseBatteryStaple) usually are not so onerous to recollect (observe the hyperlink for additional rationalization). Because of the randomness of the phrase choice, nevertheless, they make wonderful passwords.

Such passwords steadiness properly the contradictory necessities of randomness and memorableness. By the way in which, don’t use CorrectHorseBatteryStaple as a password.


The opposite ingredient to , robust password is size. You could suppose that complexity trumps size on the subject of password energy, the place complexity is the variety of totally different character varieties used within the password (e.g., letters, numbers, symbols).

However it’s a mathematical fact that passwords consisting of three to 5 randomly-selected phrases are more durable to guess than shorter ones riddled with myriad symbols.

Craft a multi-word mixture in such a approach that you’ll bear in mind it, however that may look nonsensical to anybody else. If you’re compelled by a system’s password complexity necessities to make use of numbers, symbols and the like, add a string of such characters to the tip of every multi-word password you create; e.g., CorrectHorseBatteryStaple1@! (then reuse the 1@! suffix for every account password, making the image mixture simpler to recollect).

Password Storage

You probably have a poor reminiscence (like me), you’ll need to retailer your passwords someplace in addition to your mind.

To do that safely, right here is the process I take advantage of, which I seek advice from because the poor man’s password supervisor:

I retailer my high-value passwords in an Excel spreadsheet. Then I shield the spreadsheet itself with a powerful password. That’s, the spreadsheet can’t be opened with out this grasp password.

Observe that the only, grasp password with which I shield my spreadsheet have to be dedicated to reminiscence (as a result of if I retailer it within the spreadsheet, after which neglect it, I’ve bought a chicken-and-egg drawback). Now, as a substitute of a bunch of passwords, I’ve just one to recollect.

Any time I alter an account password, I replace the spreadsheet and fix it to an e-mail that I ship to myself. As a result of I take advantage of gmail, the spreadsheet-bearing e-mail is saved in perpetuity within the google cloud. This successfully serves as a backup if my laptop’s onerous drive offers up the ghost. Name this the poor man’s backup technique.

Even when my gmail account will get hacked, the spreadsheet is ineffective to anybody who doesn’t even have the grasp password.

Lastly, I alter the passwords on all my high-value accounts no less than annually, only for good measure.


The savvy reader may be puzzled as to why I didn’t counsel the usage of a password manager to handle the credentials of your high-value accounts.

To me, password managers undergo from a number of the similar drawbacks as authenticator apps (which I described within the part on Multi-Issue Authentication). Particularly, they add useless complexity to an in any other case easy course of.

For instance, utilizing a password supervisor requires you to belief a 3rd celebration–i.e., the password-manager vendor–not simply to do the correct factor, however to do it appropriately. There may be no less than one case of such a vendor being hacked, so the priority will not be theoretical.

That stated, should you already use a password supervisor, congratulations. You might be already approach forward of the curve on the subject of working towards good password hygiene. When you don’t use a password supervisor, however would fairly as a substitute use the poor-man’s method I described above, I wouldn’t blame you within the least.

Final Phrase

The savvy reader may additionally have observed that multi-factor authentication already protects us from poor passwords. So why hassle utilizing robust ones? The thought being that even when a hacker guesses your password, he’ll nonetheless want your smartphone to do any harm.

I might agree that utilizing MFA makes utilizing weak passwords much less of a priority. However I favor to stack the percentages in my favor. For my part, the additional effort required to create and use robust passwords is minimal in comparison with the additional safety it buys me.

Wrapping Up

On this and the previous post, I outlined 4 actions you’ll be able to take to guard your self from identification theft and monetary loss.

To recap, these are:

  • Freeze your credit score experiences
  • Don’t open unverified attachments or hyperlinks
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Use robust passwords

None of those actions prices any cash. Every confers a large profit relative to the small effort required to implement it.

I hope you discovered this two-part collection on cybersecurity helpful. Above all, I hope it prompted you to take a number of of those actions to guard your self from the ever-growing universe of cybersecurity threats.

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I’m David Champion. I retired from a profession in software program growth in March 2019, simply shy of my 53rd birthday. To place myself for 40+ years of worry-free retirement, I consumed all method of early-retirement assets. Notable amongst these was CanIRetireYet, whose newsletters I’ve acquired in my inbox each Monday morning for the final ten years.

CanIRetireYet is one in every of precisely two private finance newsletters I subscribe to. Why? Due to the sensible, no-nonsense recommendation I discover right here. I attribute my monetary success in no small half to what I’ve realized from Darrow and Chris. In sharing a few of my very own observations on the early-retirement journey, I purpose to keep up the excessive normal of worth readers of CanIRetireYet have come to count on.

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Disclosure: Can I Retire But? has partnered with CardRatings for our protection of bank card merchandise. Can I Retire But? and CardRatings could obtain a fee from card issuers. Different hyperlinks on this website, just like the Amazon, NewRetirement, Pralana, and Private Capital hyperlinks are additionally affiliate hyperlinks. As an affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases. When you click on on one in every of these hyperlinks and purchase from the affiliated firm, then we obtain some compensation. The earnings helps to maintain this weblog going. Affiliate hyperlinks don’t improve your value, and we solely use them for services or products that we’re accustomed to and that we really feel could ship worth to you. Against this, now we have restricted management over a lot of the show adverts on this website. Although we do try to dam objectionable content material. Purchaser beware.

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