We live in a time where we have the world at our fingertips. We can keep up with friends and family on social media, stream music and videos, shop, pay bills, bank online and more. With all this convenience come a lot of apps, accounts, usernames and passwords. We’ve put together a helpful list of do’s and don’ts for how to create the perfect password so you can know you’re doing the best you can to secure your personal information.
First, the Don’ts
Don’t be Obvious
“It can never happen to me.” Yes it can. Get real.
Using passwords like “password” “123456” and “LetMeIn” is unacceptable in today’s world.
It’s like leaving your door unlocked and hanging a neon “Hack Me” sign. Cyber criminals are too smart and have too many tools at their disposable.
Don’t Use the Same Password for Everything
If you’re using the same email address and password for nearly every account – don’t. There’s an old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same principle applies to passwords.
If your Facebook password is the same one you use to do your mobile banking, you’re setting yourself up for big potential problems. It’s very important to use a variety of passwords.
Don’t Use Personal Info in Your Passwords
We all want to remember our passwords so we don’t lock ourselves out of our own accounts.
One of the most common mistakes people make is to craft passwords with things like birthdays, anniversary dates, street addresses and kids’ and pets’ names.
It seems harmless when you create the password. Only you know the kids’ names and birthdays by heart, right? Wrong. You could get hacked by someone just because they saw you posted a photo wishing Jack a happy first birthday on June 15.
Sometimes it’s that simple.
Unfortunately, this common mistake is also major way cyber thieves attain the information they need to circumvent security questions on other accounts, even if you’re using a different password there. Some sophisticated identity theft operations employ “crawlers” who comb through social media to find personally identifiable information that can then be used to comprise a targets’ accounts.
Now, the Do’s
There are some basic steps you can take to improve the effectiveness of your passwords. We’ll go over those now.
Security experts agree that a password should have a minimum of 12-14 characters. This decreases the likelihood that even sophisticated hackers can crack the code by increasing the possible passwords you might be using. In other words, the password becomes much harder to guess.
Be Smart with “Special” Characters
These days, most companies and organizations set password standards that require the use of “special characters” like @, $, !, #, %. While those certainly create what appear to be more complicated passwords, a lot of people use the same exact tricks, so unless you’re being clever, you’re probably not doing much to secure your data. Burger$ is not much better of a password than Burgers.
Use a Passphrase
This is a great trick to create passwords you can actually remember but are very difficult for others to guess. Instead of using a pass-word, use a pass-phrase. That’s right, use a sentence – or better yet, an acronym. Say your favorite song is Margaritaville. Instead of using Margaritaville as your password, try turning a lyric of the song into an acronym.
“Wasted away again in Margarittaville, searching for my last shaker of salt” can become the pass-phrase “WAAIMSFMLSOS”. Work in a couple special characters and lowercase letters and you’ve got “WA@iMSfmL$0$!”
Now that’s a password!
Consider Using a Password Manager
Many companies out there have recognized consumer need for better personal security online and have created software solutions to help people manage their increasingly complex and numerous passwords. These can help make it easier to keep track of everything, and relieve some of the pressure to memorize complicated account info.
Modern life is convenient, but it comes with security concerns. When you can use your credit card because someone comprised your account, things aren’t so convenient anymore. We strongly advise you take the right precautions to protect yourself and your family. You’ll be glad you did.