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Your Password – The First Line of Defense

It’s really not possible to overemphasize the importance of having secure, unique passwords for all of your online accounts. Your password is the one item regarding the security of your data and online persona that you have 100% control of.

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Some people don’t take the danger seriously however and make simple, easily guessed passwords. Even worse, some people use the same password on several different accounts! All a hacker needs to do is access one of those accounts and start a cascade of trouble for you. These are things you should NOT DO when creating a password:

 

  • DON’T use your birthday.
  • DON’T use your social security number! (people do this…seriously)
  • DON’T use your kid’s names, your pet’s names, or anything that could be easily guessed by someone that casually knows you.
  • DON’T use number or letter patterns (i.e. 1234, abcd, etc.).
  • DON’T use fewer than 10 characters.
  • DON’T store the password locally (i.e. post it note, notebook kept on the desk, etc.) or on the Internet.

 

Now that we’ve covered what NOT to do, let’s talk about what you SHOULD do! Creating a secure UNIQUE password is not difficult if you follow some simple guidelines. The following represent the minimum requirements:

 

  • It needs to contain special characters like @#$%^&.
  • It must be at least 8 characters long, preferably 10 or more.
  • It must use a variation of capitalization, small letters AND numbers.

 

To be even more secure you should follow the tips below also:

 

  • Follow the “8-4 Rule” – 8 characters minimum length, 1 lower case + 1 upper case + 1 number + 1 special character
  • NEVER let anyone use your passwords!
  • NEVER write your passwords down anywhere – Not under your keyboard, in your wallet, on a sticky note stuck to the monitor, in an email to yourself, or on your cell phone.
  • Mnemonics – Memorize a long phrase, favorite, quote, etc and use the the abbreviation, substituting numbers or symbols for some letters, and add a fb or tw or gm to the password so you have a variation depending on the site.
  • You could also use a strong password generator, as long as you are not also providing your login name/credentials.

 

One of the best ways to create a secure unique password is to use a passphrase instead of a word. A passphrase is a string of words, numbers and/or symbols that is easily rememberable to you but nearly impossible for someone else to guess. Make it relevant. If you’re joining an office supply site think “knot my pencil” and write it something like this: “|<n0tmyP3n$il”. The more personal the better. For a retail shoppingl site think “mY5orit3$hirt’sR3d” (my favorite shirt is red). Complexity is good, but length is key. It used to be that picking an alphanumeric password that was 8-10 characters in length was a pretty good practice. These days, it’s increasingly easy to build extremely powerful, fast password cracking tools that can try tens of millions of possible password combinations per second. Remember that each character you add to a password or passphrase makes it exponentially harder to attack via brute-force methods.

 

If you follow these suggestions you can be fairly confident in your passwords security. To be even more sure, you can test your passwords strength here -> Password Strength Checker.

 

And if you can’t possibly remember all of the strong, unique passwords for everything, there are password managers that can help with the task. These services and applications generate completely unguessable passwords that are unique for each site and can be used across your phone, computer, tablet, etc. depending on the solution. These programs need to be protected with very strong passwords themselves or you run the risk of giving up your whole keychain at once, but it cuts down on the memorization needed to have a set of different, robust passwords for every online account. The most popular ones are Lastpass, Dashlane and Roboform. Some considerations here are whether the saved passwords can be decrypted, whether you want a third-party in control of your passwords, and whether the products meet all your needs (mobile access, two-factor authentication, etc.).

 

Geek Easy Computers wants to make your technology easier by providing you with information to help you be safer with your data. We are always here to answer any questions! Call us at 269-548-TECH (8324) anytime. Or stop by our downtown location.

 

me_smile Adonis Pointer is a photographer, a collector of vintage razors, and a certified technology geek!
Adonis has been involved in computer technology since well, a LONG time! He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the industry from sales to repair to training to consulting. As the Social Media Manager he writes the majority of the posts on the Geek Easy Computers blog.

 





 


 

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