Tip of the Day #2

The importance of passwords. Passwords are keys to your information, your accounts and your online life. We cannot stress enough the importance of strong passwords, and how to keep those passwords safe.

For most of us, keeping our passwords straight is difficult enough if we’re using things we can remember.  Unfortunately, things we can remember, are not strong passwords.  And using one password for many places is probably the worst habit we can get into.  So how do we make a secure password that we can remember?

First, lets talk about what makes a strong password.

  • Length: The rule of thumb used to be 12 characters.  I’m here to tell you, that’s not long enough anymore. I recommend 18 characters or at the very least 15. And soon those will also be outdated.  But for now, shoot for no less than 15.
  • Complexity: And this is very important – Do NOT use common words.  If it can be found in the dictionary, it’s not a safe password. Don’t use names; not your name, not your odd dogs name, not a city, town or even country. Anything you’ve heard before has been heard by a hacker, and I guarantee you it’s been put in a table somewhere to be referenced.  And don’t think it’s going to make a difference if you change out all the “o’s” for zeros and the “a’s” for fours, etc… etc…  The bad guys know all those tricks and will check them accordingly.  No, you’re going to have to generate a unique password, complete with randomized caps, symbols, and numbers.
  • Time: Passwords should be temporary. The longer a password is in play, the weaker it becomes.  Change your passwords frequently.

So how do you stay within the seemingly impossible guidelines above? Two words – Password Manager.  Today you have an abundance of Password Managers to choose from.  Most offer a free version, along with a mobile version, and browser plugins.  Password Managers like LastPass or Dashlane allow you to create and safely store complex passwords that can easily meet the strong password criteria.

In the end, this is all a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s also necessary, even in places you may not think are important.

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