If you’re like me, you probably have dozens of online accounts for everything from your social media to your bank account. You may think your accounts are safe; but how easy are your passwords to decode? A strong password can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your most valuable personal information. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for keeping your passwords secure and difficult to predict.
1) First things first, the best way is to make your password unique. It may seem unbelievable, but the most common password is “password”! Don’t be one of those people. It’s also not a good idea to use personal information in your passwords; things that are easily discoverable in public records. These would include family names, birthdays, pet names, schools attended, or addresses.
2) Get creative by mixing numbers, letters and symbols. Today’s hackers have all types of word programs available to help decipher your passwords. Real words that follow English-language rules are easily decoded with these programs. A strong way to defeat these programs is to take a sentence you can remember and break it down into a string of letters, numbers and symbols. For example, remember the phrase “and I too can make a really strong password!” and break it down to “&i2CmaR$p!”.
Please note this isn’t a foolproof system. Be wary of using famous quotations or sayings. For example, “All for one and one for all” even paraphrased as “A41&14a” can easily be spotted. Be sure to use both upper- and lower-case letters sporadically. Symbols and numbers that are randomly added also keep your password strong. The longer the password the better.
3) Do not use the same password on multiple sites. A lack of diversity among your passwords will get any would-be hackers instant access to every account if the password is deciphered. It may seem like a lot of work but mixing things up is crucial for protecting your total online footprint.
4) Use a password manager program such as Dashlane or RoboForm to create and store your passwords. While it may be tough to remember all of your different passwords, these programs do the heavy lifting for you. Not only do they create and store your passwords, they will autofill information for you on some websites. Some of the benefits of these programs include needing only to remember one master password to access the program, all your passwords can be random, complex and encrypted. With the addition of apps, your passwords are accessible by you on any of your devices.
5) Hide your passwords from plain sight. This may seem obvious, don’t write down your password and then stick it on your monitor in plain sight. If you must write it down, place it in a secure location.
6) Change your passwords frequently. When was the last time you changed your password? Passwords should be changed regularly to keep you one step ahead. It is recommended that they be changed every three to four months. Also, change your password immediately if you detect any suspicious behavior.
7) Don’t share your passwords with friends or family. The fewer people with knowledge of your passwords, the fewer the opportunities for it to get accidentally leaked.
8) Avoid entering your password on a public device. It is best not to enter your password on any public computer (for example at the library) where it could be unknowingly stored. Any time you are using devices on a public Wi-Fi or unsecured public network, avoid visiting any sites that require a password. This is particularly true for banking or shopping sites.
9 ) Be wary of “phishing’ tactics. A link may be sent to you that looks authentic, requesting you to log in and enter your password. If you receive an email or text from a name or number you don’t request, don’t click it. Instead, enter the content of that message into a search engine along with the word “scam” to see if it is indeed a ‘phishing’ attempt.
In conclusion, the best offense is a good defense. Defend your accounts with strong passwords and stay ahead of the hackers!