Remembering and managing passwords is a necessary component of modern 21st Century living. And it’s not an easy task either. Emails, bank accounts, social media, shopping sites, news subscriptions – you name it, you’ve probably got a password for it. The average person has around 27 different logins. But do you have 27 individual passwords for those logins? Probably not. (We know we don’t!) Passwords are the locks that safeguard your personal information from prying eyes. When you exercise best practices to protect your passwords, you will minimise the potential risk of fraud and identity theft.
K.I.S.S. DOESN’T APPLY
First off, password-protect all your devices: computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, the works. Change any default passwords and change any passwords after implementing a fix on a device. Change your password if you know, think, or have been warned it has been compromised. Create a complex password. The more lengthy and difficult the password, the harder it will be for hackers to break. Make sure the password is a minimum length of eight characters and use capitals, numbers, exclamation marks – anything you’re allowed to use to make it difficult to guess. We’d say use emojis too, if you could. (Maybe someday soon.) Oh, and one more thing: make sure you can remember the password you set! If you have too many passwords, a useful tip is to put all of them into an encrypted file using mobile encryption software. That way the only password you absolutely positively have to remember is the one to open the encrypted file. And if you forget that password, then, well, you’re locked out and out of luck.
Here’s what not to do when choosing a password. Never use names or birth dates. Never use references to personal data, such as your PIN, passport number or driver’s licence. Never use a password that would be easy to guess. If the password is your dog’s name, try changing some of the letters for numbers (such as an age or date) and/or add a special numerical character to make it harder to guess. If a website or browser asks to keep you signed in, unclick that option and take the time to re-enter your password each time. Clear your browsing history or cache after online banking and shopping. And, needless to say (though we’ll say it anyway), don’t use 12345 or some other ridiculously easy combination.
VARIATION IS KEY
Keep different passwords for every account. Yes, this can be a pain, but it’s worth it. If you can’t do this, or can’t remember that many passwords, ensure to at least have different (and difficult to guess) passwords for your communication and banking accounts, because if you think forgetting a password is a pain, just think of what it would be like to have hackers writing your personal emails or draining your bank account of hard-earned funds. As for your local library password, you can keep that as something simple.
THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT
It happens to us all: you can’t remember the password to a certain account and you make several attempts to try and gain access. Limit the number of password attempts; three’s a good number, so limit it to that amount. Limiting the number of password attempts, much like a bank ATM machine limits the number of allowed mistakes when typing in your PIN, offers added password security and minimises the chances of a hack attack. In some cases you can also limit the number of allowed password reset requests or ask for verification through text. This is especially useful to have if your email address has already been compromised.
Let’s face it – you’re too cool to have anyone pretending to be you. So make the effort to keep your passwords as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle or as inexplicable as Lady Gaga’s fashion sense.
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