LARAMIE – Strong and complex passwords for accounts and two-factor identification are practices that can help avoid breaches from leaking your data, according to Cole Ehmke, the personal finance management specialist with the University of Wyoming Extension.

Data breaches and password leaks have struck companies such as Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and, most recently, Capital One, said Ehmke.

“If you have online accounts, it’s possible hackers have gained data from one or more of them, and perhaps leaked it,” Ehmke said in a news release.

Consumers can check to see if their accounts might have been compromised by entering their email address on the website “Have I Been Pwned,” located at haveibeenpwned.com. It cross-references your email address with hundreds of data breaches, Ehmke said.

“The most important thing you can do to protect your privacy and security is to have different complex passwords for every account,” said Ehmke, a member of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. “Many people use a password manager to generate and remember passwords, since it can be difficult to remember different strong passwords across all of the websites people access.”

He said the review website Wirecutter recommends password managers LastPass and 1Password. Both can generate passwords, monitor accounts for security breaches and sync passwords between your computer and phone.

“Another big safety step is to enable two-step identification for accessing accounts whenever possible,” Ehmke said. “Two-step (or two-factor) identification combines what you know with what you have – the first factor is almost always your password, while the second is usually a temporary code sent to your phone or email. Most banks and major social networks provide this option.”

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