Why do I have to use a password?
Passwords are on the same level of importance as your car keys, your bank card, or your I.D.
Let’s identify some things that these objects have in common.
- You carry them everywhere with you.
- They can be changed and replaced.
- They allow you access to sensitive information that no-one else should be allowed without permission.
Let’s pretend your online account is actually your house and your password is your house key. Without a lock on your doors, anyone can walk right in.
The reason you have a password is the same reason why you use locks. You wouldn’t let just anyone log into your account in the same way you wouldn’t let just anyone walk into your house.
Why do I have to use a different password for all of my accounts?
Let’s dig a bit deeper. Your house has multiple doors — the front door, backdoor, basement door, side door, garage door, etc.
Let’s assume that all of your doors have the same lock and you only need one key to get into your house.
Now pretend you are going on vacation and you ask your neighbor Joe to fetch your mail for you while you are away. You give Joe your key and tell him that every day you want him to take the mail from the mailbox, open the garage door, and place the mail on the table beside the door.
Joe knows that people typically use the same key for each lock on their house, so while he’s there he goes around to the front of the house and unlocks your door. He snoops around and finds a copy of your birth certificate and social security card that you made to show your employer.
Now Joe has access to your most important personal information. If you used a different lock on your front door than what you used for your garage, then Joe would have only gained entry to the area he was supposed to.
Think about it in digital terms
You have a Netflix account. Joe wants to borrow your Netflix login credentials so that he can watch the new season of Narcos.
You tell him that your username to sign in is email@example.com and your password is “hwy44e1234”.
Like the previous situation, Joe knows that people typically use the same password for every account. He goes to AOL and tries to sign in to your email using the same username and password as your Netflix account. Voila! Joe has the same access to your email as you do.
From here he can go to your sent messages box and view all of the sensitive information that you’ve sent via email.
This could have been an email to the loan department at your credit union/bank that includes a copy of your social security number and birth certificate.
Like the previous situation, if you used a different password for your Netflix account than you do for your email account then Joe would have only been able to access the area for which he was given permission.
The Password Series: Part 2
In the next installment of our password series, we’ll talk about International Data Privacy Day and we’ll share tips that will help you manage your secure passwords.