The recent data security breaches at LinkedIn and eHarmony might make you think twice before setting your next password. Even though the companies carry the heavy burden in this case, security problems are pervasive, and any site that requires a password is at risk (cloud storage, social media, job sites, etc.). You can reduce this risk by creating strong, complex passwords that are difficult to hack, even for a professional. Here’s how!
Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts for creating passwords:
1. Don’t use passwords that involve personal information. Information such as your birthday, spouse’s name, pet, high school, etc. is easily accessible online. Social media has changed the way we communicate and share information, and hackers’ tools try all of these things first. They also know that many users like to place a two-digit number at the end of their password, spell a word backward, or rely on changing cases.
2. Do use phrases rather than single words. In this case, size matters.The length of a password determines how easily it can be cracked. Just take the first letter of each word in your phrase, use a mix of capitalized and lowercase words, and add some numbers. For example, if you’re a Shakespeare fan, you could use “To be or not to be: that is a question”, which can be shortened to 2bon2b*Titq. Sometimes, the stranger the phrase, the easier it is to remember.
3. Don’t use the name of the website in your password. Simple patterns and sequences are easy to crack. So if you sign up for Facebook, don’t make your Passwords Facebook123. Be a little more creative than that! Also, avoid using simple patterns like 123456, or keyboard sequences like qwertyUI.
4. Do create different passwords for every site. You finally came up with the perfect password; it’s strong, complex AND you can memorize it! The bad news: you should NEVER use it on more than one account. Every password you generate should be unique, so if someone hacks your LinkedIn account, they don’t also get your bank account login at the same time.
5. Do use a password manager to help organize your passwords. Most people (myself included!) can’t remember dozens of unique passwords. Password managers typically have a local database or a file that holds the encrypted password data for secure logon onto computers, networks, websites and application data files. Recommended password managers are LastPass, 1Passwords, RoboForm and KeePass.
Unfortunately, even if your password is strong, that doesn’t mean it’s bulletproof—it just means that it’s likely to take very, very long to crack. Those with weak passwords may have already had their account compromised by the time they hear about the breach. But if your password takes days to crack, you have a better chance of changing it before any damage is done.
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