It quotes SplashData CEO Morgan Slain, who says that “even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many people continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft.”
Emerson and Slain are both correct — and it’s high time you change your online passwords and review good password practices. Make sure you use a different password for all of your important online accounts (such as your email account, bank account, online investment accounts, etc.).
While it’s good practice to have strong passwords in general, any site that really matters needs its own password.
Security experts emphasize that if you use the same password for every important site, no matter how strong it is, it is not a good password. If hackers find out your password, and you’re using the same password on every website, they now have access to all your online accounts.
Of course, the inherent contradiction of good passwords is the better they are, the harder they are to manage (and remember). We’ll get to that in a bit.
In the meantime, here are some tips to creating good passwords:
- Aim for a middle ground in terms of passwords: strong enough to thwart hackers, but easy enough for you to manage.
- Choose a phrase that only makes sense to you or use an actual sentence with spaces in between words, like “Peyton Manning is my favorite quarterback” or “New York City is cold in the winter.” It’s easy to remember a phrase like that, but a hacker would only see a forbiddingly long password sequence.
- Choose a shorter phrase in a language other than English, such as “Zagreb” or “Sverige.” Even better, add numbers or characters.
- Use a free online password generator to come up with a truly random password and then write it down on a piece of paper that you can carry in your wallet or purse. Just remember to not write “passwords” at the top.
- Use a complex password, and don’t limit yourself to just the alphabet. Use numbers and special characters (such as “&” and “%”). Use both upper and lowercase letters as well. Some websites actually require such a mix of characters.
Password Management Tips
If you need more help managing your passwords, here are some options:
- For $40 a year, 1Password has Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPod, and iPad versions available. After downloading their software, a browser add-on both creates and stores all your passwords.
- If you don’t want to spend any money, LastPass has both Mac and PC versions. This functions basically the same as 1Password.
- Another free option is PasswordCard, which can generate a list of strong passwords for each of your online accounts and print them on a wallet-sized piece of paper. You can tuck this card into your wallet like any other business card and use it when you need it.
As so much of our personal and professional lives move online, let’s make sure that we are taking the simple and necessary steps to protect ourselves by doing the one thing that is completely in our hands: creating strong passwords.
A few simple steps now can save you a lot of heartache later.