Are Unique Usernames Best for Security and Privacy?Feb. 8, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
It is pretty well-known that unique passwords (using a different password for every site) are better for your security than reusing passwords. Something that is less well-known, however, is that unique usernames are also good for security and privacy. This article will focus on why unique usernames are valuable and how to implement them. Unique usernames, when combined with unique passwords, takes your privacy and security to a new level.
If keeping track of unique usernames and passwords seems like a lot to handle, here is our article on password managers.
A unique username means that you use a different username or email address for every account you have.
Why does this matter?
Using a unique username adds a layer of security to your accounts. There have been numerous instances where a hacker tries breached data from one site on another site. If you use the same username everywhere, it makes it much easier for your other accounts to get hacked.
There are services that let you type in a username, and then it checks to see if the username is taken at hundreds of different websites. So if you use the same username at reddit, discord, and 30 other websites, it makes it much easier to piece together a more complete story on you. If, on the other hand, the username only exists on one platform, it makes it much harder to link together all the information about you.
How do you come up with usernames?
We will discuss three methods, and it would probably be best to use all of them from time-to-time.
- 1. Random word generator – There are websites that generate random words for you. You can select the number of words and click the “Generate Words” button. You can get interesting combinations like fruitful anger, reputation salad, and cute consensus. Any of these combinations would make great usernames: fruitfulAnger27, reputation_salad, or CuteConsensus1.
- 2. Username generator – There are also websites that will help you come up with usernames. These websites use some of the suggestions you input to create usernames with some familiar words that make it easier to remember. Or you can leave the inputs empty to get some generic usernames. Some examples are RichVegan, TaintedSweetie, and PerfectDarth.
- 3. Password generator – You can have create a username of random string characters and numbers. A password manager can even help you generate a username like this (use the password generator function of a password manager). Your username could end up being something like H3Tfd8zA8, YYuWeA6ATU, or khzeP9Ler.
What about when I have to use an email address as my login?
Some websites or services require you to use an email address as your username. You have less flexibility than picking a random username, but there are still a few things you can do to make them unique. Here are three things you can do to have a unique username when using an email address.
- 1. Masked email address - Use a masked email address when the account is not sensitive (so not financial, medical, etc.). So you could use the email address email@example.com and get the emails in your primary inbox. See our email masking article to get more details.
- 2. Plus addressing – A plus email address can be used when your account is sensitive (financial, medical, etc.). Instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, your email address could be email@example.com. These emails would still come to your main inbox. See our plus addressing article for more of an explanation. It’s unfortunate, but some services won’t allow you to use a plus email address as your username.
- 3. Separate email address – This is a hassle, but it is an option to consider. You could create a new email account wherever, but having another inbox to check can add a layer of complexity. This does protect your privacy and security more than just using your primary email address all the time.
If the above options don’t work for an account, you can still use your primary email address. Just keep in mind it would be great to limit the number of services that you do that with.
Perfect is the enemy of good
Do your best. You likely can’t have unique usernames everywhere, but try to be unique when you can and limit where you reuse your login information.
Digital privacy and security are a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck!