A recent CNN article asked “How hackable is your password?” And while you might think it was a no brainer, people actually still use “123456” and “abc123”. That’s like leaving your front door wide open and then being surprised when someone walks in and robs the place. However it’s not just these incredibly bad passwords that pose a security risk. Other passwords like “iloveyou”, “cowboys1”, “monkey” and “dragon” also appear in the top twenty most used passwords list. Although I’ve addressed password security here before, perhaps it’s time for a refresher. Here are some tips for creating and keeping track of passwords.
Steer clear of easily discovered personal information. Are you using your child’s name and birthdate as your password? Big mistake. Any information a hacker might be able to easily get from your posts on social media make your passwords weak. Posting a happy birthday to your daughter Julie on June 16th can lead a hacker to try using “julie616” or some version when trying to hack one of your accounts.
By the way, stop giving away personal information through social media polls and question memes. Those silly little polls you take on social media can also give hackers access to the name of your high school, when you graduated, your favorite movie, your pets name, your favorite color…get the picture? Steer clear of giving away too much information on social media. Many of those things are actually created by hackers as an easy way of culling personal information you would never dream of revealing otherwise. And if you use any of that personal information in a password you’ve made it much easier to crack.
Always use a combination of letters and numbers. It doesn’t hurt to throw a symbol in there if it’s allowed on the site you’re creating the password for.
Use a password generator to create truly unique passwords and utilize a password safe to keep track. In terms of password security, a generator is a much better option than creating a password yourself.
If you must have passwords that are easier to remember than a randomly generated letter/number combo, use random but memorable combinations. For example, instead of using “Patriots2019Champs” a wiser choice would be “Patriots13-3Tacos”. See the difference. While the second is still something I could recall easily, the chances of someone else guessing it is pretty slim. (Unless of course I answered one of those polls I mentioned before and gave away the fact that I’m a Patriots fan who watched their 13-3 win over the Rams and ate tacos during the Superbowl party. See? Stay away from those polls. Seriously.)
Don’t reuse your passwords. Ugh! I know, it’s painful to think about using a different password for every single service and website that you have to log in to. I get it. You’ll thank me after the next data breach and you only have to worry about changing your password for that one service/site. As I’ve mentioned before, use a password safe.
I know, the chances of you using a different password everywhere is not likely to happen. If that’s the case for you at least take the following password security precautions if not:
- Use unique passwords on all sites where you have financial information. Not just banking websites, but any websites where you save your payment information or personal information.
- If you must reuse passwords, categorize their use. For example, one for social media, one for forums or message boards, etc. Then if a social media service has a data breach, you at least know where else you’ve used that particular password in order to make sure it gets changed.
- If you’ve chosen to re-use a password on multiple sites, consider using a password generator to create it to make it a bit more secure.
- Understand that when you use a password in multiple places, you automatically open yourself up to a higher chance of it being compromised.
Hackers are getting more and more creative, both in their ability to crack passwords, but in the way they use passwords leaked in data breaches. Hopefully these ten tips can help you to take password security more seriously in order to safe-guard yourself and your personal information.