What’s wrong with simplifying…standardizing…setting and forgetting? In most aspects of our time-crunched, overworked lives, it’s all good. That is unless we’re talking about our approach to password protection. Taking a few extra measures (in the form of a few more keystrokes) can really save the day.
Tips on Creating Secure Passwords…
Short and sweet won’t cut it. Though it’s so tempting to keep it short and ultra-easy to remember…the longer your password is, the harder it is for others to guess or hack. Devising a password with at least eight characters is generally recommended, with a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and special characters
(e.g., #, _, $, *).
Give your password “character.” Get the ball rolling by swapping out a letter in your password for a number or special character. For example…Fabulousat46 could be made even better as Fab_u_lous@$6. Basing your password, say, on an acronym that speaks to you (e.g., Live Each Day to the Fullest) LEDTTF is an option. Cyclical aspects of life (e.g., winter, spring, summer, fall…or seasonal sports, such as baseball, basketball, hockey, etc.) provide food for thought.
On a seasonal note, maybe take the opportunity to change your password with the change of seasons.
Avoid common no-nos. It’s best practice not to use same password on everything from your email and social media sites, to your banking accounts. Nor is it wise to use a basic consecutive numbering system (e.g., 12345) or to simply update a password by numbering up (e.g., Angel1, Angel2, Angel3).
Tips on Safeguarding Your Passwords…
Is it alright to write it down? Folks who write down their passwords get a lot of flak for it. Of course, you don’t want to have your password jotted down on a note on your workspace or tucked under your keyboard or placed obviously in a desk drawer. If you can find one heck of a good hiding place to store your passwords, that’s your call.
For the more high-tech set, software is available that allows you to securely store/encrypt all of your password information. Some, including LastPass and KeePass, are even free. Here’s a great overview comparing some of these choices.
Be oh so careful where you put it. It’s easy to say you’ve got to be foolish to fall for scam or phishing tactics, but the bad guys are getting really good at what they do. One of the biggest and scariest password threats…fraudulent emails attempting to trick you into giving up personal information (such as your bank account or credit card password), can look so real…but they’re not.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES hit “reply” and enter your password where the email redirects you. Hold on a minute. Call the company in question (say your bank) and find out if they really do need you to validate information, or go directly to their website and log in as you usually would. And definitely avoid entering passwords on public computers (e.g., at Kinkos, the café, library, etc.) or when using unsecured Wi-Fi connections (e.g., the airport).
You can multitask and streamline all you like. Just don’t let the integrity of your passwords get lost in the shuffle. If you ever feel that you have received a suspicious email to your EarthLink account, here are additional tips to report spam.