How to choose a secure password…
When it comes time for you to create a password for your computer or an online account, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to help you create and remember a secure password. Check out the following collection of tips, and be sure to follow them to make sure your account passwords are as secure as possible.
Don’t write down your password
Although it may be tempting to write down your passwords and keep them near your computer, or in your wallet for easy reference, I can’t stress enough why you shouldn’t do this! Would you write down the security code to your home’s alarm system on the key panel so anyone who breaks in can disarm your alarm? You should treat your passwords with the same sense of privacy that you do your alarm codes or ATM card PIN.
If you find that you need to keep a written record of your passwords, you have a couple different options which may help you remember your password without compromising your security. You can write down a single word that will remind you of your password, or even keep a picture that reminds you of your password, but whatever you do – never write down your password and which account it’s associated with. This way, even if someone were to find your password hint, they wouldn’t know exactly what your password is, or which account it belonged to.
Change your password every 45-60 days
By changing your password more frequently, you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of someone being able to guess your password, or use your password should they find it. In some instances of identity theft or hacking, hackers will use your password repeatedly over the course of a few days or weeks to reduce the likelihood of being caught from attention-getting account activity such as moving large sums of money at once.
The more frequently you change your password, the more likely you’ll be able to thwart hackers or malicious attacks. I know you may be thinking that the chances of your password being stolen and used to steal your identity are slim, but for the cost of remembering a new password every couple of months, its cheap insurance.
Don’t use sequential passwords
Although it may be tempting to use your same password with a different number at the end, such as ‘Password1′ followed by ‘Password 2′. this makes it easy for someone to guess your current password, especially if they have found an old password of yours.
If you do choose a password that ends in a number, or includes a number in the middle, don’t use a sequential number the next time you change your password.
Use 10-12 characters if possible
Choosing a longer password will reduce the possibility of anyone guessing your password. The longer your password is, the more possible character combinations exist.
If your password is only 6 characters long, there are 689,869,781,056 possible character combinations that can make up your password. Having 10 characters in your password increases the possible combinations up to over 53,861,500,000,000,000,000 making it that much more difficult for your password to be cracked.
You may be thinking that almost 700 billion possible combinations is already an impossible task, but did you know that your average home computer can run this calculation in about the same time it takes to spell check a 5 page letter? Trying to calculate your correct password out of a possible 54 quintillion combinations would require a considerably more advanced piece of hardware.
Don’t use common words
Be careful not to include common words you would find in a dictionary, or even names, in your password. One technique hackers may use to break your password is called a ‘brute force’ attack. which focuses on common words.
Brute force attacks work by using computers to try entering thousands of common words per second, and attempt to find one that matches your password. By making sure that your password does not include these common words, you’ll improve your overall password security, and make it much more difficult for your password to be deciphered.
Include special characters, capital letters, and numbers
When you are choosing a password, be sure to also include specials characters, such as @ $! #, as well as capital letters and numbers.
Most account passwords are case-sensitive, which means that ‘password’ and ‘Password’ can’t be interchanged. This may sound overly simple, but you would be surprised by how much more secure a password with capital letters is versus a password in all lowercase, especially if you choose to capitalize a letter other than the first, such as ‘paSsword’.
Adding special characters and numbers into your password will also make it more difficult for your password to be deciphered. One trick some people use to insert numbers and special characters into their passwords is to use them in place of certain characters. for instance, you may choose to use ‘@’ in place of ‘a’, or ‘7′ instead of ‘T’.
Don’t choose words or dates relevant to you
Be sure not to include words or dates that can be easily linked to you, such as family names, pet names, birth dates, or anniversary dates. While these kinds of words or dates would help make your password easy to remember, they also make your password very easy for someone else to guess.
Don’t let Internet Explorer remember your passwords
If you’ve ever used Internet Explorer to login to your email or online shopping account, you may have seen a small box pop up asking you if you want to have Internet Explorer remember your password. While this may be a tempting option so you don’t have to type in your password again the next time you login to that website, I’d strongly advise that you never choose this option.
Allowing Internet Explorer to remember your password or selecting the ‘Remember Me’ check box when you login will make it incredibly easy for someone else to sit down at your computer and get instant access to your accounts without even having to guess your password.
Set different passwords for email
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that the password you use for your email account is different from the password you use for other online accounts.
Lets say for example that a hacker is able to find out your Facebook password, which also happens to be the same password you use for your email account. Now, stealing all the money in your bank account is as simple as going to your bank’s website, and clicking the ‘Forgot Password’ button, and then logging into your email to retrieve your new password without you ever knowing.
An important note about Social Engineering
Social Engineering is basically the art of getting someone to give you important information without that person realizing that the information they gave you was important. You may think that this can’t happen to you, but you’d be surprised by how simple it can be for someone skilled in social engineering to get you to give up your personal information. I’ve actually seen posts on Facebook telling people that if they type their password in a comment below, it will automatically be hidden and turn into *********. Well guess, what… there were a bunch of people who tried, and as a result wound up posting their passwords for the world to see.
Moral of the story here – be careful with your personal information, and never give out your password to anyone!
Creating a memorable password
Ok, so now that you know what not to do, how do you combine all of these tips into a password that will be easy enough for you to remember? That’s easy! All that you need to do is devise your own secret code or rule for encoding your password.
You don’t need to get too crazy and try to develop your own language here, but come up with a simple way to combine a few words or numbers into one continuous password.
For example, let’s say that your favorite color is blue, your favorite food is spaghetti, and your lucky number is 4 – you can combine the first two letters of each category, plus the first letter of the favorite item, add in a special character to separate, and finish it off with your lucky number like so: FacoB!FafoS4 This unique password will be easy for you to remember, but certainly hard for someone to guess.
You can create similar rules like the one above to create your own unique passwords. Try different combinations of letters and numbers to signify a few of your favorite things, places, or even a favorite quote of yours.
One thing I will caution you on when creating rules for your password is not to make them relevant to the online account it’s used for. What I mean by this is, you shouldn’t create a unique password like QaZ423!ebay for your eBay account, and also use QaZ423!gmail for your Gmail account. If you were to do this, and someone found one of your passwords, they could easily figure out your rule and just change the last part of your password to access all of your accounts.
Like I said, your best bet is going to be creating a unique and secure password by following my guidelines above. I know it may seem annoying at first to create passwords like this, or to remember them, but with the increasing amount of your personal information available on the Internet, you’ll be able to rest a little easier knowing that no one is going to easily guess your passwords.