Most of us have multiple online accounts including email, credit cards, online banking, and social networking sites just to name a few. With each site requiring a password, it can be very tempting to simply repeat the same password often, or keep all of your passwords simple, but simple and often repeated passwords can be easy prey for hackers and online fraudsters. To ensure that your online accounts and the personal or financial information associated with each is kept safe, we’ve lined up six tips below to help keep your passwords strong.
Don’t Repeat Passwords
It may seem somewhat simple, but you should never repeat the exact same password for multiple logins. While you may want to use the same root word or number, it’s imperative that you add some unique characters to each account. Using this approach, hackers may be able to compromise a single account, but will have difficulty gaining access to other sites.
Use Long, Sentence-Based Passwords
When most people think of passwords they think of a single word or combination of letters, but the only real limit to your passwords are character restrictions. Using an entire sentence of short phrase as your password can make your accounts extremely difficult to access for outside parties. Making the sentence extremely personal, like “I grew up in Omaha,” or “My college major was communications” can make your accounts inaccessible for anyone but you.
Use Two-Step Verification
To add an extra layer of protection, websites like Facebook and Gmail have begun to offer two-step verification. This safety measure requires a second, non-web based verification before accounts can be access, or passwords changed. Most often, the service will send a text message with an access code to a mobile device. This way, if you aren’t the one requesting the password change, you would be notified that someone else is attempting to do so.
Avoid Easily Found Information
Many of us have a various pieces of personal information scattered around in public documents. Things like birth dates, maiden names, or names of children and relatives can be found somewhat easily by those who know where to look. Avoiding passwords based on that type of information is recommended.
Change Passwords Regularly
If you’ve ever worked in an office that deals with sensitive information, your IT team likely required a password change every three to six months. We recommend changing the passwords for your most sensitive personal accounts regularly as well. You can make it easy to remember by tying a password change to a regularly occurring event, like when you change your car’s air filter or after each dental visit.
Use Pneumonic Devices
In elementary school we were all taught different tricks to help recall information that is difficult to remember off the cuff – like the order of the planets or multiplication tables. You can do the same thing when your passwords. For example, the phrase “This is why we can’t have nice things” would translate to a password of TIWWCHNT. That nonsensical jumble of letters would be difficult for anyone to guess.
While there may not be a 100% foolproof method to keep your passwords out of the hands of hackers, the six tips above can ensure that you’re on the right path to keeping your personal and financial information safe. For more information about how you can protect your information online, see our posts on smart tips for your smart phone, protecting your finances online, and a fraud alert map.