Do Your Passwords Pass the Security Test?

Do you worry about someone hacking into your computer and stealing your private information?  Many of us bank, manage credit cards, and report our income taxes online, and use Facebook and other social media websites.  All of these types of sites are password protected and that means we’re all aware of the importance of keeping our passwords to ourselves or sharing with others (such as a spouse) in a secure fashion.

The key is creating unique and secure passwords.  Try using these tips when creating your passwords.

  • Don’t use real words, but rather letters and numbers that have meaning to you, such as a phrase or acronym.  For example, you could use an acronym representing something you think about often or were involved with in the past.  Then pair this with a number that is associated with that experience, but that others wouldn’t necessarily know.  Let’s say you were involved for 22 years with a charitable organization.  A possible password could be Charit22.  Just make sure you haven’t posted your charity experience on Facebook!
  • Use a special character in place of a letter that is relatively easy for you to remember. Examples are * $ # ^ & < >.  You can even use the same special characters to replace the same letters across all your passwords making it easier to remember.  For instance, $ could always replace the letter S.
  • Change your passwords at various intervals, such as every six months.  Change them immediately if you have ANY suspicion that a password has been compromised.
  • Never click on a link in an e-mail that takes you to a website where you key your user name and password, even if the e-mail is sent by the website and you know it’s probably a valid link.  Always, always, go to the website directly in your browser by typing in the location or using a trusted bookmark.  The e-mail could be fraudulent and not really link you to the website you think it will (such as a credit card website), but instead to a “fake” website where a hacker could easily steal your information. 

There are many websites with good information on this subject.  One I like in particular is Microsoft.  Microsoft also has a facility where you can check the strength of your password.

Another key security measure is to store your passwords securely.  One technique is to save your passwords in a document that is password protected, such as a Microsoft Word or Excel file.  You should also print this document periodically and save it in a secure location in your home away from your computer.

What are some techniques you use to create and remember secure passwords?  Feel free to share your tips – just be sure to be general enough in your explanation so no one can figure out what your password might be!

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