I am asking this question because recently, quite a few sites are getting hacked. Last year, the Gawker network got hacked, and users’ email addresses, passwords and other sensitive data were taken. More recently, the manga site MangaShare got hacked and again, users’ emails and passwords were potentially taken.
In a separate case, Lastpass – the “store your passwords in the cloud” service – got hacked too. Moral of the story, your data is not totally safe online. Nothing surprising here, but those cases led me to ask this question: should you register online?
Before you scream “BUT I CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITHOUT REGISTERING!” in my face, let me say I KNOW! You want to download file, site asks you to register. Want to leave a comment? Register. Want to view a picture? Register. Want to view an article? Register! It seems as if every site out there wants you to register! But why?
Because your data is precious. They want your email addresses to send you advertising and make money out of it. They want your details so you become trackable: they can know what you are viewing, so they can better serve ads to you. It’s all about making money. Unfortunately for you, you’re inputting your sensitive data at lots of places. This is never a good thing, whether in real life, or online! *smirk*
Registration is an annoyance to most of us. That’s not the worst thing about it. You’re basically increasing the risk of having your information stolen. The more sites you put in your data, the higher the risk. Also, let’s face it: most users use the same password everywhere despite what tech people tell them. If that password gets compromised, the attacker potentially gets access to all your other accounts.
If I were an attacker and I got your password off some forum, I’d feed your email address and password into Paypal or some online bank and try seeing if you got an account there. If you do, I’d be a lucky attacker. This shows just how dangerous data loss can be.
What should you do? The answer seems simple: don’t register! Wish it was that simple! You won’t be able to comment on that article that interests you, or download that file you wanted, or see your friend’s picture. Basically, you can’t do anything without registering on sites that ask you to.
Then what options are available to you? Here are 2 ways you can get access to sites, while at the same time keeping your data relatively safe. Relatively. Remember, whatever you are putting online is never completely safe. If you don’t want the world to know something, don’t put it online.
1. Disposable accounts
The simple fix: register with fake details! It’s as simple as that! Or not… Site admins will probably hate you for it, but who cares! It’s your data and personal information that is at stake!
So for sites that you use often, you use your main username and real email address. Fine. What about those “unsure” sites, which you will probably use one or twice, or drop a comment like, once in a month? Feed them fake details. But how? You will need 3 main ingredients:
- A username: You should something that is not similar to your main username. For example, if you often use “JohnSmith” on your favourite sites, you could choose “Firefly” as your disposable username.
- A password: You don’t really care if that password is compromised, so you can make it simple enough. Try something slightly complex just to be safe. E.g. “myPa55word”. You can read my article on passwords if you’re interested.
- An email address: You have two options here:
- Create a secondary email account at a provider for e.g. gmail: “firstname.lastname@example.org” for example.
- Use a disposable email account: There are various providers out there that will give you a temporary email address to allow you to receive your “activation email”. After a period of time, the account is auto-deleted. So you don’t get spam or other unsolicited emails at your main address.
Regarding email addresses, it’s better if you choose to register with a “permanent” provider. You can then re-use the email address for other registrations. Also, some sites block those “temporary” email addresses, so you’ll have to get a permanent one.
But if you’re being lazy and don’t want the hassle of registering (sigh!) for a mail account, you can use those 5 services to get a temporary mail, starting with my favourite:
There are many others, so just do a search for “disposable email”. Also, most services will only allow you to receive mails and not send anything out – as a measure of protecting against spam.
You can now feed those “fake” details to sites you don’t really trust or don’t think you’ll use often. That should ensure you’re somewhat less trackable and at the same time, reduce the risk of your main accounts getting compromised.
2. BugMeNot to the rescue!
Why register when people have already done it for you? Yes, you can use others’ accounts! Here’s the one site you need: BugMeNot!
The godsend BugMeNot! It has saved me countless annoying registrations!
Just go there, type your site URL and you will probably find a valid username and password to allow you entry without registration.
If you can’t find one… well, register a disposable account and share it with the world! Give back to the community too! 😀
I could only find a single worthy alternative to BugMeNot, and it’s not as reliable at that. Try your luck there if you can’t find a good login at BugMeNot. It’s called Login2me.
So there you go! You now know the risks of registering online, what you can do about it and a solution for those wanting to avoid registration completely. If you have any tricks, especially alternatives to BugMeNot, do share in the comments. What are your views about registration by the way? Think it’s a good thing?