Why Credentials Are the Best Way to Stay Safe on the Internet

Be aware and pay attention

Key Takeaways

  • February 9 is Safer Internet Day meant to promote education on making the internet safer in terms of safety, privacy, and security. 
  • Experts say credentials are the main thing hackers use to gain access and cause harm. 
  • Simple things like regularly changing your password and taking time to really read your emails will help everyday individuals with their internet safety.
Digital Security concept image.
MF3d / Getty Images 

Tuesday, February 9 is Safer Internet Day, and experts say we still have some challenges to overcome to make the internet safer for all. 

Even if the internet never has been more secure than today, there still are plenty of security threats to look out for as hackers become more advanced in their techniques. Experts advise to always be aware when you're surfing the web, and to treat your credentials and information as sacred.

"People just need to be aware and use common sense," Ralph Pisani, president at Exabeam, told Lifewire in a phone interview. "If something looks abnormal, slow down. A lot of what’s trying to harm us is trying to fool us or trick us." 

It’s All in the Credentials

The 16th annual Safer Internet Day aims to educate people about safety, privacy, and security on the internet. The day has grown to an event that spans over 150 countries, with participating companies such as Facebook, Amazon, TikTok, Google, and more.

But when it comes down to it, cybersecurity experts say the main idea they want to stress this Safer Internet Day is the daily threat our credentials face. 

"I’ve read hundreds of briefs on breaches, and I've yet to find one that didn't involve the use of stolen credentials or compromised credentials," Pisani said. 

Pisani said that we are getting attacked at all angles from potential hackers, whether in our personal life or work life, and that our credentials hold keys to the kingdom. He stressed that credentials act as the last line of defense from attacks. 

"Access comes from having the credentials and being able to log on like a normal user," he said. "If you think about all the ways in which bad people can do bad things to us, a lot of them are by duping us into our credentials." 

Person typing at his laptop computer at night.
Westend61 / Getty Images

Pisani said the recent Solar Winds hack proved we still have a long way to go in terms of safeguarding our digital identities. He said the cybersecurity industry, as a whole, needs a new approach to the way it does things, adding that the industry uses the same defenses it has been using for years, even if hackers have become more sophisticated

“We have to spend more of our focus and our money to not just, 'How did the bad person get into my environment,' but, 'How do I quickly identify that intrusion and contain that intrusion,'” he said.

How We Can Make It Safer 

According to Pisani, the average person needs to be more aware, and that will help make the internet safer. 

"The first and foremost thing is that anything that doesn't look normal coming into an inbox, you need to look into it," he said. "We have to be conscious of it…not racing to respond to every text message and email."

"I’ve read hundreds of briefs on breaches, and I've yet to find one that didn't involve the use of stolen credentials or compromised credentials."

Doing things like paying attention to the email sender and looking for red flags in an email, regularly changing your passwords across your platforms, and using multi-factor authentications will all add up to a safer web experience. 

Pisani said people even are being targeted on social networks like LinkedIn, so always pay attention to who is trying to connect with you. 

The pandemic also has posed a new threat to internet safety that we have to consider, as the workforce has shifted to mostly remote. 

"Working from home is a new challenge," he said. "The more we are working from home, the more vigilant we have to become, especially when it comes to using hardware we've procured ourselves."

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