How to prevent Online Impersonation

Updated: Sep 17

I have a curious question for y’all. Who is your role model? Who is that someone whom you want to be, or hope to one day grow to become? Who is that one person you look up to so much?

For me, it is my mother. My mother is the strongest woman I know in my life – no matter what struggles or emotional pains life hits her with, she still continues living each day to its fullest and never lets these sufferings depict or pave out her life. There is this one video from my childhood I still remember so vividly – we were playing in the park and my mum was swinging, and when she was trying to get off the swing, she fell down. But instead of worrying or fussing over the scratches or potential bruises she might have, she just simply brushed it off, stood up, and continued swinging. She is the strongest woman I know, and each day, I strive to be as strong as she is.

Impersonation. The act of pretending to be another person.

Now, while having a role model and impersonating someone are two completely different things, they do in fact have their similarities. They are both about following the footsteps or copying someone’s behaviours, speech, appearance or expressions. But impersonation has a more deviant undertone – because its purpose is 99.9% of the time to deceive a victim and commit fraud.

How then do scammers go about impersonating someone else then? Well, it all boils down to the key behind it all – our passwords.

Let me tell you something. Did you know that 90% of passwords can be cracked in less than six hours?!

And with access to your passwords and thus accounts, it is very easy to commit identity theft! For instance, after gaining access to an account, these hackers or scammers can steal personal information such as credit card details and use it or take loans in the name of the victim.

Moreover, they can also then easily hijack your account by changing your passwords and disallowing you any access to your own account. I mean, think about it. If this account includes your payment details or any other confidential information, imagine what the repercussions will be!

So how can you prevent online impersonation?

#1: Do not use personal information in your passwords

Personal information such as name, birthday, IC number, pet’s name, etc. as your passwords are not ideal. This is because these information are easy to obtain, making it easier for hackers to correctly guess your passwords.

A good password has a mixed of lower-case and upper-case letters, numbers and special characters, and at least 8 characters in length.

#2: Remember to log out of your account

I know I know. It is so much more convenient and hassle free to just save your passwords onto your browser so that you do not need to repeatedly log in again each time you want to access your account. But this can also be detrimental because let say (touch wood) your laptop has been stolen, then what? All your accounts are now fully available and in the hands of a hacker. I mean, it is almost as good as simply uploading a file of all your passwords online and being like “Merry Christmas in advance – here’s a present for you. Cheers!”

#3: Set up 2FA or Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Here’s the thing about 2FA or MFA. The goal of MFA is to create a layered defense in order to make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access a target. For example, a physical location, computing device, network or database. If one factor is compromised or broken, the attacker still has at least one more barrier to breach before successfully breaking into the target, making your accounts much safer!

For example, to access your personal transactions and statements on your online bank account, after logging in with your username and password, a One-Time Password (OTP) will be requested and sent from the website’s authentication server to the requester’s registered mobile device.

#4: Watch out for suspicious links before clicking

Here’s a tip for you. If you see a deal that is too good to be true, it is likely because it is really too good to be true! Don’t fall prey to these online too-good offers and blindly click on any link you receive in your inbox or phone. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry!

#5: Stop recycling passwords

Let me put this out there – there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Those that have ONE password for EVERYTHING; and those that have ONE password for EACH of their application or websites they login to. Which one are you?

Well, obviously if you fall into the former category, then let me just say that that is a very dumb thing to do. It is as if you are calling out to all the hackers around the world, “Come! Hack me! My accounts are all open!” Because once a hacker finds out 1 of your passwords, all your accounts are now left vulnerable. But let’s face it, we are all lazy people who are getting older each day with a worsening memory, so I honestly wouldn’t blame you if you did resort to this.

On the other hand, if you fall into the latter category, then let me just shake your hand and wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Because unless you have a proper way to manage all your passwords, there is no way that you are able to remember all your different passwords for all your different accounts! (Unless you have a photographic memory of course!)

But alright, well done! Because having ONE password for EACH of your application or websites is 1000% safer than having ONE password for all your accounts! You just need to learn how to manage them properly.

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