As part of an ongoing "Meet the Team" blog series, we invited Directors from each Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction department to share some of their insights based on their specific area of expertise. We kick off our third "Meet the Team" blog with our Director of Information Systems, Jeffrey Kitsmiller, Jr., 32°, where he shares seven easy tips for helping to keep your data secure.

Jeff Kitsmiller, 32°

Passwords. We all have them. Many of us loathe them. Whether it’s the pesky character count, symbols, uppercase, lowercase . . . we get frustrated when we see that annoying message on the screen: “Incorrect password. Please try again.” Hopefully these seven simple tips and tricks will guide you on a path to manage these critically important pieces of your online presence.

(1) Be different.

- All too often, people use the same password for every account they have. This practice is strongly discouraged and one of the easiest ways for your accounts to be compromised. If your password is leaked from one online outlet, malicious individuals will attempt your same email, username, password combination on a whole host of other websites. This will allow them further access to your personal information and potentially provide the ability to make fraudulent purchases on your behalf.

(2) Be less obvious.

- The most widely used password – used by more than 2.5 million people – is “123456”. The 200 most common passwords of 2020 may surprise you; you should review this to make certain you don’t have one on the list. You should also refrain from using your name and other easily identifiable words.

(3) Be stingy.

- You should treat your passwords with the utmost care and not share them with anyone. You can never be too certain of the security standards in practice by others and as such, it’s a safer bet to not share. Also, don’t be the one that stores passwords on a document saved on your Desktop… or on that post-it note stuck to your monitor.

(4) Be wordy.

- In October 2019, the FBI issued a recommendation to begin using passphrases instead of passwords. In short, passphrases are continuous strings of words of at least 15 characters. For example, a password like “TaylorHam!” could be converted to a passphrase such as “#1TaylorHamIsNotAPorkRoll!” As you see, this passphrase encompasses many of the required standards of security enforced by most online outlets.

(5) Be vigilant.

- Good password practices will certainly assist in keeping you secure in a digital world, but it’s not the only thing that will keep you safe. Anti-virus software (Malwarebytes, Norton, McAfee to name a few) will provide another layer of protection on your devices and ultimately your accounts. Malicious software could unknowingly be on your device tracking your keystrokes and activity; installing anti-virus protection will assist in this endeavor.

(6) Be extra cautious.

- When available, you should leverage extra steps such as “two-factor” or multi-factor authentication. This is often provided in the form of a text message with a specific code to verify your identity once you log in. This will prevent someone from using your stolen credentials from logging in without the code on your cell phone. Additionally, enabling facial recognition or fingerprint scanning will also provide extra layers of security atop your accounts.

(7) Be managed.

- Admittedly, it’s difficult to keep up with a different password for every online account. Password managers are a great option to leverage to keep your passwords under control and with great security. Online password managers like 1Password and LastPass are great resources at a low cost for you to engage and they help take the burden off of you trying to remember all of those different passwords.

Online accounts are not going anywhere in our lifetimes and password requirements will forever be changing. What won’t change – is the unfortunate number of bad actors looking to capitalize on someone’s weak security standards. Hopefully these seven tips will help guide you along a more secure online journey.