ID and data theft is so common that it’s become hard to pay attention when the news reports another 10 million ID’s stolen here or 70 million stolen there. Every story ends with the advice that you need to change your passwords and PINs as fast as you can. That advice got me to wondering what made up a really strong and secure password.
Here are some of the tips that I have learned:
- Use a long password. The longer your password, the stronger it is. Crooks use software to crack passwords and longer passwords are the most difficult to break.
- Don’t reuse passwords. This means you should have a different password for every account.
- Avoid common passwords. I know you thought a password of 1234abcd was brilliant because it consisted of numbers and letters, but so did a million other people and the crooks know it. What’s the worst password of all time? The word password.
- Intentionally misspell words. The crook’s software recognizes words pretty easily. Substitute wrong numbers and characters. Use phonetic spelling.
- Use a sentence as a password. Sentences can be easier to remember and are long enough to be hard to break.
- Randomized passwords are very strong. However, the downside is that they can be just as easily forgotten.
- Don’t use birthdays, anniversaries, pet’s names or other easily obtainable information as your passwords. For a lot of people, all the thieves need to do is read a Facebook profile to get all the information needed to start guessing passwords. Maybe Sally1997 is not such a good password.
Creating strong passwords is a great start. However, how you use your passwords can be just as important. Consider some of these good habits:
- Never give out your password to anyone. Passwords can be a lot like the common cold. They are easily spread around.
- Put a password or PIN on your phone. Make it hard for a thief to pick up your phone and gain easy access to all of your personal information and your contacts. Have your phone automatically lock it ‘self after just a few minutes of being idle.
- Block the view of others around you when typing in your password or PIN. You would be surprised how easily a thief can look over your shoulder to see what you are typing.
My last piece of advice is to consider using a password manager. They come in the form of apps and software that you install on your mobile devices and computer. The password manager creates passwords that are long, random, and extremely hard to break. You just need to remember one password to access the manager and it takes care of handling different passwords for your multiple accounts.