Fall Guide to Updating Your Passwords

As 2013 comes to a close, it’s a good time to think about updating your passwords before heading into the New Year. As more and more sites continue to offer innovative ways for you to store information online, it’s becoming increasingly important to be proactive when it comes to keeping your accounts secure, and your personal information out of the hands of hackers and cybercriminals. In the following post, we’re going through a few tips you can use in order to make your passwords are as strong as possible. 

Use Different Passwords Everywhere

You wouldn’t use the same key for your house, car, security box, and office, so why are you using the same password for all your accounts online? In order to protect your personal information online, it’s crucial that you decide on and use a different password for every online account you use (Facebook, email, bank account, etc.). All of your passwords should be equally as strong, no matter what website they are for. You might think that keeping your bank account secure is more important than keeping your Facebook account secure, but hackers can still use information from your Facebook account to do harm. In order to protect all of the sensitive information that you have online safe from hackers, every account you use needs a strong and unique password.

Know What Kind of Passwords To Avoid

According password management company SplashData, the top ten most common passwords of 2012 were:
1. password
2. 123456
3. 12345678
4. abc123
5. qwerty
6. monkey
7. letmein
8. dragon
9. 111111
10. baseball
If you are currently using any of the passwords above for any accounts online, log into your account and change your password immediately. It’s also a good idea to avoid using personal information (like your hometown, favorite band, name of your pet, name of your husband or wife, or date of birth) in passwords that hackers could easily find online. You might not always think about it, but you share a lot of personal information about yourself publicly on sites like Facebook in Twitter. As such, you should avoid creating any passwords that could be easily guessable by a person were they to simply take a quick look through your Facebook profile.

Keep Your Passwords Safe and Private

As a rule, you should try to avoid sharing your account passwords with anyone. Never keep a record of your passwords in places that are easy to find (a post-it note on your desk, on your desktop on a file titled “passwords,” flagged as a favorite message in your email inbox). If you are someone who has a hard time keep track of all the different passwords you have for your online accounts, consider using a service like LastPass or 1Password. These are secure password management tools that only require you to keep one password fresh in your mind (your login password to the site).

Use All Four Categories When Creating New Passwords

In a section on their website about creating strong passwords, Microsoft recommends you use all of the following four categories when creating new passwords:

  • Uppercase letters (A,B,C)
  • Lowercase letters (a,b,c)
  • Numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Symbols found on the keyboard (~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ – + = { } [ ] | : ; ” ‘ < > , . ? /)

By including all four categories in your password, you’ll be making it harder for hackers (and the programs they use) to guess what your password might be. As mentioned above, remember to use different passwords that include all four categories for each site or account online that requires you to login.

Other Password Strengthening Strategies

In addition to the recommendations mentioned above, you can also use the following strategies to strengthen your passwords:

  • Use the four categories recommendation mentioned above, but spell the word you chose to include backward instead of forward.
  • Replace symbols for letters (ex. use a “3” in place of an “E”).
  • Use at least eight characters in your passwords (twelve characters is even better).
  • Create an acronym from an easy-to-remember piece of information (I Went To JFK High In 1975 can become iWtJFKh1ghI_75).
  • Relate your password to a favorite hobby or sport (for example, I love to play badminton could become ILuv2PlayB@dm1nt()n).
  • Never reuse passwords.
  • Opt in for two-step passwords if a site offers it.

What other password strategies do you use to keep your information safe from hackers? Leave a comment for us below!

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Brittany Warnock
Brittany Warnock | Contributor

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