Despite the fact that most people (yes, even you and I) completely disregard the health and wellness of our digital footprint, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, maintaining your passwords and data is more vital than ever as we become a more tech-reliant society. Today, I’m going to show you how to manage your Google Passwords like a pro and why you may want to check in on them frequently. We may make this into a series in the future to show you how to manage your other online accounts to maintain your safety and privacy, but today, we’re going for the big one.
Why it’s important
Our society is ripe with people who would seek to take advantage of those who are less tech-literate or savvy about how online accounts and information work. Luckily, Google has created the Safer with Google initiative. Here, they teach you a ton of great tips and tricks and even give you the tools you need to stay safe as you and your family browse online.
One specific area I want to highlight, of course, is your passwords. Google Passwords is a one-stop shop for adding, modifying and removing saved passwords for any website you visit in the Chrome browser. By visiting Google Passwords on the web, you can let Google automatically tell you what needs to be changed or fixed to make your accounts ironclad.
How to perform a Password Checkup
The Password Checkup tool can be launched using the blue button below. One you arrive at the destination, a blue “Check Passwords” button will be waiting for you. Clicking it will have several benefits! First and foremost, it will show you how many and which of your online accounts are utilizing “compromised” passwords. These are items you should consider changing the password for immediately as they have likely suffered from a data breach, where your personal information was stolen from that company by a third party or otherwise exposed publicly. You can also check for such breaches at haveibeenpwned.
As you can see, prior to cleaning all of this up, I had 49 compromised passwords! That’s pretty scary, but the truth is that data breaches happen practically every week nowadays, and it’s a risk of using digital services. That’s not to say it should be accepted, but you should check back on the Password Checkup tool frequently to watch for them.
Pro Tip: You can install the Google Password Alert extension from the Chrome Web Store to be notified when entering your password on any website. This will allow you to determine whether or not your data is safe. Fair warning though, it’s super annoying when it redirects you each time you enter your password on sites you trust, but it can be turned off for that site pretty easily!
Duplicate or shared passwords
The next section on the checkup tool tells you how many passwords are being reused or shared across different online accounts. Ideally, every website you visit should use a completely unique and different password, and this is much easier when Chrome auto-fills across both the browser and mobile.
However, the truth is that the cultural operation of passwords has been nearly entirely dependent on the human brain – the most fallible and weakest link in the chain. Social engineering relies on humans to slip up or to create patterns, and hackers take these opportunities to figure out what your password may be. In other words, if they discover your password for one site, they can almost be sure it’s your password for another site or many others.
The screenshot above is a very old one, and I’ve had it saved for a while, so luckily, I’m not sharing the same password across 553 sites anymore. Instead, I let Chrome randomly generate secure passwords for each of them and also let it store them on my behalf. I recommend doing this to avoid patterns!
Lastly, the “Weak Passwords” section shows you how many and which of your online accounts is using a password that’s not as secure as it could be. Normally, having a password be at least 8 characters with a capital letter, lower case letters, numbers, symbols, and so on strengthens it and makes it harder for an opportunist to guess, even with tools like hash tables.
Once again, if you’re having trouble coming up with unique passwords that meet these criteria, you can allow Chrome to auto-generate something for you that fits the bill. I can’t stress this enough! If you’re worried about not being able to sign in on another device, make sure that said device has your Google Account synchronizing to it so that your passwords will be detected and injected into form fields automatically!
As Google seeks to kill the password entirely, this entire ordeal may not be necessary anymore, but passwords themselves are a product of a bygone era (or rather one that’s passing before our very eyes!) In due time, the word “password” will be a joke we tell our grandkids, but the idea of safety and online security with privacy tools that account protection will never be a thing of the past.
Change your passwords often
The common consensus for how often you ought to freshen up your passwords and change them to something new is generally every three months. There may be circumstances like the aforementioned data breaches and so on that cause you to consider changing them even more frequently. If there is a data breach on a website and Google informs you, you should take time to change that account’s password immediately!
My advice to you is to visit the Google Password Checkup tool once every two to three months and simply go through all three sections until the check marks are no longer red or yellow but green. If you’re not a fan of Google Passwords, then I recommend you use something like Dashlane, One Password, or Lastpass (but never lose your master password or you’ll lose access to all of the passwords in the vault!)
Knowledge is half the battle
My last word of wisdom to you is to avoid storing passwords for your bank, Google Account, or any other online presence you maintain on paper, in a Keep note, or another plain text editor, or really anywhere else. It may be more convenient, but it can be something you regret for a long time to come if you become a victim of cybercrime!
You don’t have to be like me who creates all of his passwords in other languages, or like those super techy individuals who create randomized strings of characters and memorizes them, but by utilizing the tools at your disposal and keeping up with the technology, you can maintain a safe online presence for you and your family without also constantly dealing with the headache of them.