With the increases in identity theft, cyber crime, and hacking these days, it’s best to keep yourself as protected as possible. Although sentences like these are usually followed by ads for expensive anti-virus or online protection services, this time it’s followed up with some simple advice that’s absolutely free: change how you handle passwords.
Don’t use obvious things like your birthday, birth year, or years you graduated or got married. Anyone will access to your Facebook can most likely get personal information of this type. You should never, ever use “password” in your password, but even just in general avoid using common words. CNN recently published an article with some of the most commonly hacked passwords, including ‘blink182’ (which, if that’s your password, just change it to Plus44 and no one will figure it out).
You need separate passwords for each account you have. I know, this sounds like a nightmare. But if a dating service is hacked, and you used the same email/password combination for say, your bank account, that would be a much, much, much worse nightmare. I get that it can near impossible to remember each and every password required for every single account you have. Never keep your password on a post-it note on your office computer’s monitor. That’s like writing your PIN number on your debit card. If you’re writing all of your passwords down, keep them in a safe place, like an encrypted file on a separate flash drive (if digital) or in a locked drawer (if on paper). Do not ever put them on a cloud/server, or stick the paper in your wallet (if you’re wallet gets stolen, now they have your cash, your cards, your ID, and all of your passwords). Also, never tell anyone any of your passwords for any reason. You never know if they'll turn out to be an Allen Ludden.
The easiest route is letting Google (or Apple) save all your passwords so you don’t have to remember them, but this leads to two problems: first, you’re putting a lot of faith in a third party to keep your info safe, and second, if you ever need to log in to an account from a different device, good luck remembering the password you set six months ago. Speaking of which, you should be updating your passwords every six weeks or so. The longer you have a password, the less secure it is.
Passwords need to be a strange, preferably nonsensical combination of letters, numbers, and “special characters” (like question marks, exclamation points, and underscores). Using a tool like the Secure Password Generator can be very helpful if you struggle to create your own. Or, if you’re roughly my age and played online games in the 90s, try to remember when your username looked like ‘Th3_G4m3_M4$t3R’. Yeah, we all laugh at our ridiculous monikers now, but to be fair, they would make incredibly strong passwords. Plus, every time you type your password, you’ll think of that bygone era of Dunkeroos and Surge.
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