It's hard to imagine the digital world pre-Facebook and Google, but as I remember it that time was filled with usernames and passwords. When I was in high school I remember having a piece of notebook paper that listed all of my secret codes; it told me what I needed to log into my Netscape email and my Disney account, among a list of other websites. If that piece of paper was lost, access to my little online world went with it.
Times have changed though. Now when visiting new websites, more often than not, you can simply sign in with your Google or Facebook username and password. No more guessing games to see if a username is already taken or tying every combination of 'johnny4799,'? 'Johnny040799,'? and 'joHnNy4799'? to remember the right password. Now it's one and done.
Logging into a website with Facebook (aptly called Facebook Connect) makes life so much simpler. Not only is it one fewer password to remember, but it makes sharing content with friends all that much easier too. Love an article? Hit the 'like'? button and it goes right to your friends' newsfeeds. Are you on Google+ too? Give an article a +1 and it goes right to your account!
The idea of connecting to websites through Facebook began in 2008, and by 2009 over 60 million people a month were doing it and over 80,000 websites and devices had this option available. Google+ has joined that ranking too with an estimated 10 million users in July alone, giving them the ability to hit the +1 button (similar to a Facebook 'like'?).
I've lost my little piece of notebook paper but the simplicity of signing into multiple accounts with one username has made it unnecessary. Still though, the ease at which people can compromise my identity because of this is alarming. With so many users connecting to websites with their Google and Facebook passwords it's easy for things to get compromised. Sure it's easier for you to remember your password if it's your name and birthday, but it's just as easy for someone else to guess your login too. If you've connected to several websites with your Facebook or Google account and that password gets compromised, it's not just that account that's in trouble, but the rest of them too!
To address this issue, several new guidelines have been put in place to protect your many identities online. Some of the tips include:
- Do not use any words, numbers or phrases associated with you as your password. That means the name of your dog and the year you were married are not the smartest options.
- Include a combination of upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and basic punctuation. That means a password such as 'Car0L!n3s'? will make a better choice.
- Make your password at least nine characters long.
Tougher passwords to crack may make your accounts safer but Mark Burnett, author of the book Perfect Password, says as long as a password is longer than 15 characters it no longer matters how random it is. Extremely long passwords have so many additional characters, the time it takes to hack increases compared to that of a smaller and more complex password.
So next time you check out a new website should you feel comfortable signing in with your Facebook or Google account? Probably. Unless of course your password is 'johnny0781.'?