Your Passwords Stink – These Tips Will Help Keep Your Accounts Safe
You don’t have to be a software expert to understand that passwords are among the key elements in making sure your personal or guarded information won’t be revealed to ID thieves, hackers or anyone else with malicious intent. Running parallel to the way that the internet has been learned about and embraced by society as a whole, cyber criminals have been honing their skills. As tech gets more advanced, hackers keep finding new ways to get leverage over pretty much anyone. For this reason, people are encouraged to create secure passwords that’ll be difficult for identity thieves to unlock. You may not be able to stop these criminals from doing what they want to do, but you can always adopt security measures to give better protection to your documents. The following suggestions are a great place to get started:
Regular modification of passwords
If you plan on using a single password for most or all of your online accounts for the rest of your life, you’re putting yourself at high risks for identity theft. You can avoid a lot this risk by frequently changing your passwords every three to six months. This way, hackers will have a hard time breaking in to your often-changing entry point, even if you only change a character or two at a time.
Use passwords with an array of characters
Using passwords that contain your name, birthdate, or a combination of you and your spouse’s names is not a good idea. Hackers can easily obtain that kind of information from social media and people around you. They will then link all the details together and figure out what password you might be using. To make it as difficult as possible for these criminals, make sure that your passwords are composed of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. This will make your password far more difficult to figure out and will take a substantial amount of time to get around it. Before hackers finally discover your previous password, you may have already changed it to a new one.
Avoid using the same password for different accounts
A lot of people are using a similar password for their bank accounts other activities. Cleveland.com revealed that around 20% of people are using this risky practice. Always remember that different accounts mean different security systems. Your social network account may have weaker anti-identity theft measure compared to your bank account. Once hackers are able to break in to the account that has a weaker security system, they will eventually infiltrate your other more important accounts by plugging in the same passwords.
Say “No” to password-sharing
Experian, one of the giants in the credit industry in the United States, conducted a survey covering matters on identity protection. The company found out that nearly 50% of people (under 30 years old) feel secure when somebody knows about their passwords. However, this is never encouraged, even if the person by whom the password will be shared with is a loved one. After all, it is all about your identity’s protection, so it is best to always keep your password by yourself. Even if you share a bank account, most financial organizations will allow you and your partner to each create unique logins.
Avoid using public computers
In case you don’t know, cyber criminals are clever enough to integrate custom software on public computers that will record every keystroke of your user names and passwords. Using library computers, internet cafes and other devices available to the public to log into your financial accounts is highly discouraged. Moreover, avoid using public Wi-Fi at all if you plan on accessing your bank account.
Use scrambled words
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people are fond of names of people close to them (or their own name) as passwords. If you are one of these people, you need to quit that practice immediately. Those kinds of passwords are easy for hackers to figure out. In fact, it can only be a matter of guessing game. To prevent this, use acronyms and scramble your set of characters so that it becomes a unique and hard-to-hack password. For truly strong passwords, chain together three or four random words and replace some of the letters with numbers and symbols. Something like “Ilovedogs1!” is super easy to figure out compared to a password like “Do6sEnv3lopeSKY”.
Sequential numbers or letters is a no-no
Are you so forgetful that you would really want to assign ABCDE or 12345 as your password? If you said ‘yes’ you might as well just post all of your login information on Twitter or Facebook for the world to see. Avoid these kinds of passwords like the plague. Password guessing software can figure them out super fast. For example, you wouldn’t use 1234 as your ATM pin code… would you?
Avoid writing down your passwords
Some people become victims of their own passwords. They tend to forget what they came up with in the moment and find that writing them down and carrying them about is an acceptable solution. Well, it might help you remember your password, but it’s really easy to leave behind those small pieces of paper (especially if you’re forgetful in the first place). Other people might just outright steal your valuables, which would then give the criminals immediate and easy access to everything in your life. If you really need something to remind you of your password, writing down a hint (not the exact password) is a far superior alternative.
Create a long password
The idea is simple – longer passwords are more difficult to hack or guess. How long should you passwords have to be? Most websites make it so they must be 8 characters or more. We would recommend aiming for 12-16 to really make it strong.
You don’t want to be a victim of identity theft, do you? If not, your first and one of the best lines of defense against identity thieves and hackers is to follow the tips above and make a password that’s impossible to crack.
My name is Jennifer Price and I started StopIdentityFraud.org because internet privacy & security are issues that are extremely important to me. As a private network security consultant, too often do I see the damage that can be caused by identity theft & fraud. It’s my goal to help educate people about id theft and how to better protect themselves against it. Feel free to get in touch with me here or on any of my social media profiles.