We’ve been on the internet for almost 35 years, yet we still haven’t learned our lesson about online passwords. According to a recent security study, the most commonly used web passwords are things like “123456” and “password.” And if you use that simple password across multiple accounts—as a reported 92 percent of online users do—that puts all of your data at risk. Here are seven tips for ensuring your passwords are as strong as possible.
Hackers use multiple methods for trying to get into your accounts. In one technique, a computer program runs through every possible combination of letters, numbers, and symbols as fast as possible to crack your password. The longer and more complex your password is, the longer this process takes. Passwords that are three characters long take less than a second to crack.
Long passwords are good; long passwords that include random words and phrases are better. If your letter combinations are not in the dictionary, your phrases are not in published literature, and none of it is grammatically correct, they will be harder to crack. Also do not use characters that are sequential on a keyboard such as numbers in order.
Randomly mix up symbols and numbers with letters. You could substitute a zero for the letter O or @ for the letter A, for example. If your password is a phrase, consider capitalizing the first letter of each new word.
Do not use your birthday, anniversary, address, city of birth, school, and relatives’ and pets’ names in your password. These only make your password easier to guess.
When hackers complete large-scale hacks, the lists of compromised email addresses and passwords are often leaked online. If your account is compromised and you use this email address and password combination across multiple sites, your information can be easily used to get into any of these other accounts.
Don’t give your passwords to anyone else. And do not plaster your password on a sticky note on your work computer. If you’re storing a list of your passwords—or even better, a password hint sheet—on your computer in a document file, name the file something random so it isn’t a dead giveaway.
The more sensitive your information is, the more often you should change your password. Once it is changed, do not use that password again for a very long time.
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