Your first line of defense against identity theft is your password. In fact, if you want to protect your sensitive data, your password is extremely important.
One of the reasons that the Heartbleed vulnerability was so scary was that it had the potential to expose your passwords to hackers and scammers. If you want better password security, consider implementing the following tips:
1. Don’t Use the Same Password for Everything
One of the oldest tricks in the hacker book is to get one username and password combination. Many people use the same information to protect multiple accounts. If someone manages to hit upon your username and password for one site, s/he can simply try a bunch of other major sites, using the information, and checking to see if it’s possible to get in.
If you want to protect yourself from this sort of problem, it makes sense to use different passwords for different sites. It’s not fun to remember all those passwords, but it’s safer. There are a number of tools, such as 1Password, that can help you keep track of everything easily, while still allowing you to protect your personal information with good password security.
2. Change Some of Your Passwords Regularly
Next, make sure you change some of your passwords regularly. Some passwords don’t actually need to be changed all that often. Interestingly, studies indicate that changing a bank password every three to six months might not matter.
However, it does make sense to change your password to email, social media, and other similar services regularly because these are accounts that people will wait around to “listen” in on. Switching it up can confound someone who is waiting for you to divulge important information via these accounts.
3. Choose Something Unconnected to Your Life
Many people choose their pets’ names, kids’ birthdates, and other publicly available information for their passwords. While this can make it easier to remember, it also makes it easier for scammers and hackers to guess your password. If you want better password security, you need to move away from your life as a source for inspiration.
When you choose a password that can be cracked by personal information that someone can glean by looking at your Facebook profile or reading your blog, you are setting yourself up for difficulty. Instead, choose passwords that are unconnected to your life, and make it a point to keep them as random as possible. If you have a password tool, it can help you keep track of those unusual passwords more effectively.
4. Make It Long
One of the keys to a more secure password is length. Many web sites require that you choose a password that is at least six or eight characters. This is because the longer a password is, the more combinations are possible — and the harder it is to crack.
So, even though the web site might impose a minimum on you, that’s no reason to just stick with the minimum. In fact, there are indications that you should have a password of at least 12 characters for best effect.
Once again, it’s important not to put memorability above security. In today’s world, since almost everything important is online, you really do need to protect yourself. Make your password as long as you can (many sites have a 16 character limit) and use a password tool to help you keep track of everything.
5. Mix It Up With Letters, Numbers, and Symbols
Mixing it up can make your password even harder to crack. Rather than using all numbers or all letters, mix it up a little. Incorporate number, letters, and symbols into a your password. And try to make it random. It’s much harder for someone to crack a password like 6Th*1s_dM&2x than it is if you use something like Grizz1989.
A combination of upper case and lower case letters is a good idea as well. Try to make your password as random as possible, since that will make it harder to crack. Some web sites won’t let you add symbols to your password, you might just have to work with letters and numbers. But with a good mix and a little randomness with your capitalization, you can still create a pretty decent password.