Why you should use strong passwords

Most people understand the importance of guarding their ATM PIN and Social Security Number. Yet many don’t realize that the passwords they use should be treated with same concern.

Why all the fuss? Well, for starters, you probably don’t want strangers going into your bank accounts, email, or personal computer. Imagine how much trouble you could get into at the office if somebody else used your account to look at sensitive data – or worse, delete it!

If you use the names of your pets or children, special dates, or words found in the dictionary as your password, you’re at risk. It isn’t very difficult, these days, to research into a person’s life and find much of this information. If you write down your passwords, keep them in a safe place – not stuck to your monitor or any other place near your computer.

A strong password is one that is at least 8 characters in length, has a mix of upper/lowercase letters, contains special characters, isn’t a single word found in the dictionary or the name of a person/pet, and isn’t tied to your personal information (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.). Additionally, the password should also be easy for you to type quickly – not so difficult to type that it slows you down enough that somebody could watch your fingers as you typed it.

Sounds complicated, right? Well it isn’t so bad if you really put a little thought into it. You could use a short phrase/sentence that makes sense to you:

i.liK3!Pie

Or something inspiring:

$bEg00d2peOple

Note that the ‘E’ was replaced with a ’3′ in the first password to make the word ‘like’. Two zeros were used in place of the letter ‘O’ to spell the word ‘good’ in the second one. Spaces were eliminated and/or replaced with non-letter characters. There is a mix of lower/uppercase letters – and not just at the start of a word.

There’s no way for somebody else to know the phrase you chose, or how you put it together, or how many special characters you used and where you placed them, unless you told them. This increases the strength of a password, yet doesn’t make it difficult to memorize or type.

I’ll write more about passwords and security in the future. Until then, consider changing the passwords you use to better protect yourself.

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