Good passwords are key
Computer hacking is on the rise, and no wonder, searchlore.org estimates that 1-in-3 people use passwords that can be easily guessed – kids’ names, anniversary dates, birthdates and user names.Building and managing good passwords is one of the most important things you can do to protect your privacy. You might think you’re safe because you avoid using personal data and are using random names or words (even foreign words) instead. Not so. Hackers use sophisticated tools that can run through lists of potential passwords (such as words in a dictionary, the 100 most common names, etc.) and hammer away on individual passwords until they get a hit. Avoid being a victim by developing good password practices.Develop passwords that are at least seven characters in length (Microsoft recommends eight) and include upper/lower case letters plus characters or symbols (e.g. !, *, +).
The tricky part is remembering the password you’ve created using these guidelines. One way to ensure you’ll remember is to take a word that has meaning to you and use a “secret code” to translate it into a solid password. “Mountain” becomes “~0unta1N”. Don’t simply replace letters with logical numbers (e.g. i = 1, E = 3, o=0). Hackers can break this code too. Instead, try inserting a symbol instead (the “~” in this case). Another trick is to combine a couple of words with symbols. “Skicountry” becomes “sKi#cOuntry”. Change the spelling of the word to be even safer: “sKi#c0untri”. While these passwords represent huge improvements over using a birthday or word from the dictionary, they are not as secure as using a “passphrase”. To create a passphrase, you might take the first letter of every word from a well known phrase you can remember. “Keep your tips up” is translated into a password of “k+y+t+u”. Be sure to add symbols to maintain the minimum length and to make it even more secure.
Once you’ve created secure passwords, you’ll want to manage them. Ideally, you should use different passwords for different sites and applications. You should also change them often, at least once a month for truly sensitive data. All of this leads us back to the primary challenge – remembering the passwords.The answer is not to write them down or store them in an un-secure file somewhere.Instead, we recommend (and Microsoft concurs) that you develop a handful of well-constructed passwords you can use on various sites. You can add an additional layer of security by modifying them slightly every time you change them (e.g. adding a number to the end of the password to correspond with the current month, for example). You can even change the symbols out and still maintain memorable passwords: k+y+t+u morphs to k!y!t!u1 to k@y@t@u2 to k#y#t#u3.
Whatever system you opt for, be sure it makes sense to you, is easily remembered and contains the basic secure ingredients: minimum length, upper/lower case and a combination of letters, numbers and characters.One final word of caution, never reveal your password to anyone. You never know in whose hands it might land. For additional help, email email@example.com.
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