The early adopter’s guide to keeping your information safe

So, you’re an early adopter. I am too. For me, it may even be an addiction. I bounce from Hacker News to Tech Crunch to Tech Meetups like it’s no one’s business.  I religiously listen to start-up and tech related podcasts on my daily commute. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying out a new website or business every day.

But with innovation happening so fast, it’s really easy to get lost in a sea of new accounts. And when you’re lost, it’s really easy to compromise important information. If you’re like me and you fall into the “early adopter” category of consumers, here’s a few tips to keep you organized and your information safe.

Use Multiple Passwords

Anyone who deals with security will tell you how important it is to use different passwords. But this is even more crucial when dealing with start-ups and new websites. If websites such as Sony and Zappos can be cracked, you can bet it can happen to the brand new service you just signed up for. Now, startups are a much smaller target compared to these large companies, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

There is no way of knowing how these companies are encrypting your password, or how secure their servers are. So, come up with a simple password, separate from any other passwords you use, and reserve that password for these new web services. If you end up using the service a lot and the website starts growing, change the password to something more secure. If this simple password is every compromised, none of your major web services will be effected.

Get a Password Manager

If there’s one thing you take from this article, I hope it’s this point: invest in a password manager. I personally use and love 1Password, but there are a number of other services out there that are also great. Not only is a password manager great for remembering all your passwords, it will also help you keep track of all the accounts you have.  The first step to staying safe is knowing who has your information. With a password manager, you can view all this information in one place.

Once you get your password manager, go into your internet browser and enter all those saved passwords into your new manager. I guarantee you’ll find an account (or multiple accounts) that you forgot about. You can also take this opportunity to close accounts you never use, no point in providing them with your information if you’re not using the service. It’s just a liability.

Then, whenever you create a new account, take a few seconds and add it into your password manager. The goal is to create a system that you can trust, which means entering in every account and every password as soon as you make it. Then, you’ll have a go-to resource with every account you have as well as all the usernames and passwords. The list of accounts you currently have is probably larger than you think, and just imagine all the website you’ve probably forgotten about. I’ve got 199 entries in 1Password and counting.

Avoid Linking to Social Networks

…unless you really want to. It’s not always clear if/when a new company is going to post something to your Twitter account or Facebook wall, so just play it safe and don’t link your accounts unless doing so provides a specific feature that you want. Now, most companies understand that posting to someone’s feed or wall without implicit permission is the fastest way to lose a customer, but there’s no need to take that chance if it’s not vital to the website you’re trying out.

For myself, I’ll immediately click the back button if I find a website that only allows login through Facebook connect or through Twitter. I’ve established myself on both Facebook and Twitter and the last thing I want is a new website, that I’m not even sure if I’ll still be using in a week, gaining access to that world.

Limit Personal Information

I like to hope that this point will someday go without saying, but we’re not quite there yet. While some may make an argument in favor of sharing all your information on websites such as Facebook, it’s important to remember that this brand-spanking-new website you just signed up for is NOT Facebook. It’s a small website that will do whatever it can to build and grow. Hell, this new company may be just one pivot away from providing all your information to less-than-savory 3rd party group. While this may be highly unlikely, it’s still a possibility. Share your information accordingly.

Start-ups and new websites are the ones who take the risks and push the envelope. They’re the ones blazing the trail in terms of privacy and testing the limits of what companies can get away with. Older and established corporations move much slower and take far fewer risks. If you’re an early adopter, you’re going to be giving your information to companies that are trying to shake up the world and do something that’s never been done before. Play it safe.

2 Comments The early adopter’s guide to keeping your information safe

  1. Eva Schweber

    Hi Dann,

    I’m Eva and I work for AgileBits, the makers of 1Password.

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time to educate your readers on the importance of password managers and online security, and for including 1Password in your discussion!

    In this day and age, it is so important that we all use strong and unique passwords for every site that we visit, and password managers can help make it much more convenient to be secure.

    Keep sharing the secure word!

    Eva Schweber
    Good Witch of the Pacific Northwest @ AgileBits
    support.1password.com

    Reply
    1. Dann

      Thanks for stopping by, Eva! I’ve been using 1Password for years — big fan here.

      In my experience, one of the hardest things to do is to convince my friends to get (and use) a password manager. But we’re both fighting the good fight, so we’ll just have to keep going!

      Reply

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