The rapid development and expansion of the Internet brought unlimited capabilities to consumers and businesses alike. The first online money transactions commenced in the early 90s, but online shopping became as popular as going to the physical location over the last couple of decades. The comfort it provides is significant, but not without its challenges because unprotected online transactions enticed many criminals looking for an easy profit.
The current safety of the World Wide Web is a challenge for cybersecurity specialists. Moreover, it extends as a political problem in cyberwarfare and a personal issue for casual Internet users that fail to protect themselves online. The scope of possible damages from cybersecurity threats vary from minimal (someone stole the logins to the service that’s not used anymore) to devastating (losing your banking logins, getting your monetized social media account hacked, etc.)
For example, Breeh Kotomah, a self-taught fashion designer ran a successful Instagram account with 5,000 followers. She could directly communicate with her potential customers on that platform, advise on prices, and respond to customers requests. One morning she awoke to a message from Instagram stating her account was deleted due to suspicious activity. It’s not the first time Instagram does that since they respond aggressively when they notice an account acting against their rules.
One way or another, in the current state of cybersecurity affairs, it’s imperative to take action to protect one’s online valuables. When it comes to social media, it all starts with a username and a password because if a hacker obtains both of them, stealing an account becomes effortless. Luckily, you can use password and username generators that will provide you with secure credentials. For example, the NordPass username generator is one of the easiest to use and is available to everyone free of charge.
Why is a secure username necessary?
Most often, people are talking about password security. After all, having “qwerty” or “johnsmith” as a password doesn’t sound good to anybody. But what about usernames? Of course, they are not as important as passwords, but they still pose a particular challenge, and bad username generation practices can also have dire consequences.
First of all, unlike passwords, usernames are public and visible information, and it’s advisable not to use your name and surname as one. However, cybersecurity specialists at NordPass analyzed the most popular usernames and noticed that first names make 199 of the 200 most popular usernames, which means that people freely give away personally identifiable information, and, on the Internet, you never know with whom that information ends up.
One of the ways to use a personalized username for sinister purposes is Phishing. It’s one of the oldest cybercrime methods that exploits social engineering to steal sensitive personal data, which can later be used for various nefarious purposes. Phishing even predates computers, early exploits, called Vishing (voice+phishing) happening over the phone.
One of the most common and the most notorious Phishing scams was that of the Nigerian prince. Professionally it falls under the advance-fee category when cybercriminals exploit confidence tricks promising a share of a large sum of money for a payment in advance.
For example, a person pretends to be a Nigerian prince who needs to transfer a large amount of money to the US due to Nigeria’s political troubles or any other believable reason. But before that, he needs payment from the victim to start the operation.
At first glance, this may not sound very sophisticated, but cybercriminals use several methods to make the email look convincing. And personal data is one of the most efficient ways to do it. Having a victim’s real first and last names and an actual address, phone number, or maybe even close relatives information – might be enough for some people who are not advanced Internet users.
This is where secure usernames become essential. For a cybercriminal to start an efficient Phishing scam, he or she needs at least a victim’s name, surname, and email address. And if a person uses the “name+surname” combination, then the chance of receiving more Phishing emails increases significantly.
Here are 5 tips on how to create a secure username
- Create a username that is easy for you to remember but hard for someone else to guess. Suppose you have an easily guessable username, and your passwords have leaked from some unprotected service (you can check whether you have been affected by any data leaks on www.haveibeenpwned.com). In that case, a hacker can make several guesses at your username and gain access to your account.
- Use different usernames for different accounts. If you have been affected by a data leak and reuse the same username, it will be included in billions of leaked data points, and someone will sooner or later try those credentials on a different service. For example, you may have used the same username and password on an online casino platform and for your Netflix account. Unfortunately, your data leaked from unsecured online casino servers, and the hackers use it to steal your Netflix account.
- Don’t use any personal information. As mentioned above, any personal information can and is used to improve hacking methods. Social networks enabled sharing intimate moments over the Internet, but always remember that lack of privacy comes at a cost. Be it Reddit, online forums, or chat platforms like Discord – do not use any personally identifiable information for your username.
- Use a username generator. Cybersecurity experts advise its best to have different and unrelated usernames for all of the various services. It might be hard to come up with a username after you’ve exhausted all options. Instead, you can use online username generators, which can also check the availability of a particular username on different platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Make it unique. There’s a hacking method called brute force when cybercriminals try billions of different username-password combinations without any prior knowledge. Rarely, but sometimes they can guess the combination out of the blue. To make it harder, you can include symbols and numbers to your username to make it stand out.
People frequently take comfort in the fallacy that “cybercrime always happens to somebody else.” In fact, it happens more often to people who don’t practice any online safety, and having a safe username is an excellent place to start.