Every year SplashData compiles a list of the worst passwords, with results that will make security experts cringe. Almost every year “123456” and “password” are the most commonly used passwords, which means they’re incredibly easy for hackers to guess. Don’t let a simple word or phrase be the only thing standing between thieves and your livelihood. Password security is an essential part of protecting your identity.
Easy to guess passwords aren’t the only problem internet users have. We regularly use the same passwords for every website. Larger sites have stronger security (but even they can be compromised), but smaller and older sites are often more vulnerable. You may have forgotten you signed up for a site years ago, but if you use the same password for your bank account, you may get an uncomfortable reminder in the event of a security breach.
There isn’t a perfect solution to password security issues, but there are many ways you can make your password stronger and more secure. You don’t want to use information that might be easily accessible in public records or from a social networking page, just the name of a family member of pet. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when you’re creating a new password.
Have Different Passwords for Specific Kinds of Sites
It’s a smart idea to have a different password for every website, but we log in to so many different websites that remembering them might be impractical. Instead, try lumping the sites you visit into different categories, like food, shopping, publications and social media, then create one password for each group. That way, if your information from one site is hacked it limits the accounts that can be accessed and won’t compromise your info on every site you visit.
Make Your Email Password Your Strongest Password
Almost every site has an “I forgot my password” option that lets you reset your password using the email associated with the site. If your email is hacked, it’s easy for the hacker to get access to almost any website you use through this feature. Making your email password your strongest decreases the odds of someone using it to gain access to more of your accounts. Having your phone or computer save a complicated password when you log in means you’ll only have to type in a complicated password once or twice.
Make Your Passwords Into Goals
If you have a goal you’re working toward, like saving for a vacation, incorporate that into your password (“Save4Vacay2016”). This makes using your password a daily reminder of what you’re working toward. As a bonus, once you’ve achieved that goal, this kind of password makes it easy to remember that it’s time to update it when you have a new goal (“Lose20LBsBeforeVacay2016”).
Think Like a License Plate
License plates have a limited number of characters, which means car owners often have to get creative when they want a vanity plate. “Perfection” becomes “PRFXN,” “Tattoo” is “TA2” and football fans can make “Raiders” into “R8RS.” Apply that same line of thinking to creating your password. A loved one’s name as a password might be easy to guess, but if you remove some vowels and sub in a number or two it becomes far more difficult.
Use Two-Step Verification
If a website offers two-step verification, sign up for it. Once signed up, when you sign in to a site like Apple, Amazon or Gmail on a new computer you will be prompted to enter a code sent to your phone. Even if someone has your email and password, two-step verification can stop a thief from getting access to your online accounts.
Make Passwords Related to a Site
If you want an easy way to have a unique password for each website, try inserting the site name into your password. If you use “ILoveMusic123” for every site, switch things up by making your password into things like “ILoveMusicAmazon123” and “ILoveMusicFacebook123.” It makes the passwords that much easier for you to remember, and that much harder for hackers and bots to figure out. Try moving the site names to different locations in the password (“IFacebookLoveMusic123”) or even in the middle of one of the words in your password (“ILoveMuFacebooksic123”) to make them even harder to guess.
Pick a Nonsense Word
There are programs that can run every word in the dictionary trying to guess your password. These are known as “Dictionary Attacks.” This kind of attack’s big limitation is that the passwords guessed have to be real words that are in the dictionary. If you misspell a word or make one up, you’re less likely to get hacked. Try to spell out a baby’s babble or an odd sound your dog or cat makes. It’s unlikely a hacker will be able to figure out “Mwarackag” It also helps to replace random letters with symbols, like @ for A, ! for L, or + for T.
Go Long and Random
Some websites put a cap on how long a password can be, but if you can go long, do it. A long series of random words, or “passphrase,” is stronger than one word and a few numbers. Pick four unconnected words like “CruiseDonkeyPizzaChortle” or “AppleWellCoatsBank” for your password and recite it to yourself a few times. If the password is unusual enough it will stick in your head, but be difficult for anyone to guess.
Turn a Sentence Into a Password
Some very strong passwords look like a random string or letters, numbers and symbols that would be impossible to remember. The key is to start with a sentence and turn it into a strong password. If you’re a sports fan, rather than going with something like “49ersFan16,” think of a sentence like “My Favorite football player, Joe Montana, won four Super Bowls and wore the number 16.” Turn that into the password “MfFpJMw4SBaWtN16.” It’s impossible to guess and means nothing to anyone but you. It’s like using “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” to remember the notes in a Treble Clef or “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos” to keep track of the order of the planets. Once it’s in your head, it will never leave.
About seven percent of people ages 16 or older have had their identity stolen, and the vast majority of those victims (86 percent) had existing bank and credit card account information used fraudulently. If a password to even a minor account is hacked, there could be major repercussions for your identity.
A small problem can quickly snowball, leading to bank accounts being locked and frozen credit cards. In many cases it’s easy to prevent identity theft, you just need to be careful and keep an eye on your online accounts.
Strong password security means your personal information will be that much safer. Learn more about how Farm Bureau Financial Services can help protect your identity.