A man typing a password into his laptop

According to a recent Guardian report, the cost of living crisis could be the next target for scammers looking to exploit consumer vulnerability.

With households struggling to make ends meet and one-off government payments likely for some, there is plenty of scope for the unscrupulous. Based on the response of scammers to the coronavirus pandemic, we can expect everything from promises of quick cash to fraudulent texts, emails, and phone calls purporting to be from the government.

With scams expected to rise, ensuring you are on top of your own cybersecurity is key.

However, a recent YouGov poll in partnership with Goldman Sachs suggests that there is still some way to go, and that consumers still need help to protect their data and their money.

Keep reading for the results of this survey, and some tips for keeping yourself – and your loved ones – safe online.

1. Choose a secure password

Despite police warnings of cyber scams and decades of advice on internet security, the two most popular global passwords for online accounts are still “123456” and “Password”.

Google research also confirms that of the 27% of Americans who have tried to guess someone’s password, 17% have guessed it correctly.

Avoid the above passwords, but also stay clear of those that include personal information like your name or your date of birth, or even your favourite football team. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters and avoid common words or phrases if you can.

2. Keep your passwords safe

In the YouGov poll, a quarter of respondents admitted to keeping passwords written down, either on scrap pieces of paper or in a diary.

This isn’t a good idea. Paper can be misplaced or thrown away, or compromised during a break-in.

Encouragingly, a further 25% of those surveyed confirmed that they used password managers. Software like LastPass can store multiple passwords securely.

You can also use password managers to automatically generate passwords for you. The passwords generated will contain combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters, which are automatically saved so that you don’t need to remember them. The complex strings also make these passwords much harder to guess.

3. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts

Passwords can be difficult to remember. If you have one that you know, and which feels relatively safe, you might be tempted to use it for more than one online account.

If you are tempted, you’re not alone. Of those surveyed, 68% admitted to using the same password across multiple sites. But, again, it isn’t a good idea!

Once a hacker gains access to one account, they are highly likely to try the same password across the rest of your accounts.

Consider using password managers to generate unique passwords for each. Equally, use passphrases (rather than passwords) to make the correct one much harder to guess.

4. Don’t share your password with anyone

Half of the respondents to the YouGov survey confirmed that they had shared their password with someone.

While this might seem ok if the person is someone you trust, it is always best to limit access to secure and personal sites to you alone.

Sharing your password with just one other person could double the devices used to access the account (and the number of devices available for hacking) and massively increase the chances of a written password being discovered.

It’s important to keep your passwords to yourself so only you have access to your own accounts and personal information.

5. Use two-step verification

Nearly a quarter of survey responders avoid two-step verification because it is “too much hassle”. But what is it, and why should you be using it?

Two-step verification (also known as “two-factor authentication”, or “2FA”) strengthens your online security by adding an extra layer of protection.

Once you enter a username and password, you will be instructed to provide a further means of identification. This might be the answer to a security question, a certain character or characters from a separate passphrase, or a passcode emailed to a known account.

This means that even if a scammer uncovers your password, they still won’t gain access to your account. This can greatly reduce the chances of you falling victim to cyber fraud.

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