After years—even decades—of educational articles urging us to use more secure passwords, people still use “password” as a password. Or “123456.” Yikes! Have we learned nothing?
Yes, passwords can be challenging. And yes, the best advice about password security makes them a bit more painful. But all it takes is one breach of your important data for you to feel real pain, and wish you had been more careful with your passwords. Then you might even admit that following some basic safety tips isn’t really all that difficult. So here are the tips that provide greater security without ruining your life:
Length = Security. At a minimum, shoot for 8 characters. Ten or twelve is better.
Be Unpredictable. Don’t use easily guessed variations on your name, names of family, names of pets, birthdays, home addresses, or other information that hackers can learn about you online.
Use a sentence. Remember elementary school music classes? We were taught to remember the notes on a staff—E, G, B, D, and F—with the sentence “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” It has become classic advice from numerous experts to do the same with your passwords. Choose a sentence that makes sense to you so it is easy to remember but is not something hackers might guess from your online profiles.
Mix it up a bit. Even with the first-letter code from your sentence, it’s a good idea to change at least one letter to a symbol or number, add a symbol or number, or capitalize at least one of the letters. Some sites may require the use of a symbol and/or a capital letter, but even if they don’t, adding one introduces a randomness that makes it tougher for hackers to hack.
Change your password from time to time. Some sites will require you to change your password every three to six months. Even if they don’t, this is a good idea—especially for your financial accounts. If someone hacks your library card, you’ll survive. But life gets a lot more complicated if they hack your bank accounts.
So minimal pain on your part creates major pain for hackers. And just like a sign advertising an alarm system in front of a home, a tougher password will discourage these hackers who, after a short time trying to break in, will then move on to find an easier target.