Your password is still the weakest link─ the easiest way for someone to break into your system or your accounts and access information that you don’t want them to have. Research shows that about three out of four users implement the exact same password for multiple sites and accounts. Around 60 percent of smartphone users do not secure their phone with a passcode. Here are four tips to follow if you want to be a more savvy password user.
- Never Choose the Obvious
A few commonly used password are “password,” “qwerty,” “abc123,” and “12345.” They are easy to remember, and they are also easy to guess. Steer clear of these well-known options, and avoid passwords based on your first name or the first name of a loved one. According to studies, women are particularly prone to using a partner’s name in their passwords. In addition to common words, avoid using dates like your birthday or anniversary. Such information is public and easily obtainable by anyone who wants to get into your accounts.
- Change Your Passwords Often
Humans are creatures of habit, which means that most users leave the same passwords on the same account unless a potential breach or security scare prompts them to make a change. However, it’s a good idea to switch out your passwords occasionally, even if there’s no indication of a security problem. This lowers the chances of someone being able to latch onto your login.
- Follow Password Recommendations
When you come up with a password, be aware of the standard recommendations. A strong password consists of more than 8 characters and includes capital letters mixed with lowercase letters. Capitalize unexpected letters and implement letter substitutions, rather than following traditional grammar rules. For example, use a password like “s&Feh0u5e+” rather than “SafeHouse1″. When it comes to strong passwords, the wackier they look, the better. Some experts claim that even a substitution like “0″ for “o” is not sufficient; it’s an obvious choice that many hackers have included in their password-cracking programs. Instead, choose a substitution that is meaningful to you, but not to anyone else.
- Use a Password Keeper
When you have a different strong password for each account, you may have difficulty remembering them all. Use KeePass, LastPass, Keeper Password Manager, or a similar program to store your passwords. These programs lock away all the passwords for all your accounts in case you forget them. You access this digital vault of passwords using a separate login, often involving elements like photos or images as part of the unlocking process. The use of an image makes it difficult for anyone to crack the program and uncover your passwords. You can also handwrite the passwords and keep the paper in a secure yet accessible location in your home, offline so that no one can access that data via hacking.
While no password is perfect, a well-constructed code can discourage a hacker from attempting to access your data. They may leave you alone and go after less savvy users; or their incursion may be detected in time to prevent a breakthrough. Take a few minutes to create some powerful passwords of your own and implement them as part of your online defense.