Time to Change Passwords and Create Strong Ones

Spring cleaning.  Whether it is cleaning your house or your closet, today spring cleaning should also include cleaning out your emails, cookies and other digital data you no longer need or use.  Part of your virtual cleansing should be changing your passwords.

Recently Reputation.com posted an excellent article:

How to Pick a Strong Password and Protect Your Privacy.”

In the digital age, people place their whole lives online. We check our news at CNN.com, shop for movies at Amazon, and connect with old friends on Facebook. We access our bank accounts and our medical information online too. Despite the amount of time we spend online, however, few Internet users put the proper effort into developing the most basic protection against identity theft there is: their passwords.

When it comes to protecting your identity online, having strong passwords is your first line of defense against cyber-criminals. Everyday, decent, hard-working men and women around the world have valuable personal information stolen or compromised because of weak passwords. Here are nine Reputation.com-approved tips to make sure you don’t become one of them.

Number no-no’s:  Using numbers in your password is good. Using only numbers in your password is bad (especially if those numbers are 123456.) If you think it’s unlikely that someone would actually use 123456 as their password, think again. In a recent international phishing attack, more than 10,000 Hotmail e-mail accounts were compromised. Research showed that the most popular password used on those account was, you guessed it, 123456.

Close the dictionary:  Using a word or phrase in your password might seem like a good idea, since they are easier to remember, but passwords with words in them are notoriously easy to crack. By using “dictionary attacks” – programs that can scan through the dictionary and attempt endless log-ins on your account – hackers can access your account information without having to lift a finger.

Be “symbolic”:  Using special characters and other symbols as part of your password is a great way to strengthen it against attack. Try mixing a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make the strongest password possible. Do not, however, use symbols to represent letters (such as “pa$$word”) because word replacement programs can identify them Something like “!7hr2$RD” is a better example of a strong mixed password.

New website, new password:  Everyone knows that it’s a bad idea to use the same passwords for multiple accounts, but we all do it anyway. With countless new social media applications and websites coming out everyday, the reality of remembering dozens of separate passwords can seem daunting. Unfortunately, if you use one password for all of your web applications, it only takes one account to be breached for them all to be compromised. So, what can you do to have unique, memorable passwords for each account? Check out our next tip.

Nifty mnemonics:  You probably learned about mnemonics when you were in elementary school, but here’s a refresher. Mnemonic phrases are designed to help you remember something by associating the first letters of whatever you are remembering with a unique phrase. By turning this process around, you can make a password that is nearly impossible to crack. Here’s an example. Using a mnemonic, the phrase “Barack Obama was elected president in 2008!” becomes the password “BOwepi2008!” Better yet, you can use similar mnemonics for all of your accounts, cutting down on the difficulty of remembering multiple passwords.

Login manually every time:  Many websites offer the option of saving your password so that you can automatically login the next time you visit the website. As tempting as this is, you should take the extra 10 seconds to login manually. There’s no telling who might access your computer while you are away. Do you really want your e-mail exposed to anyone who uses your computer?

Change it up:  Think of your password like you think of your food. The longer it sits out, the more likely it is to make you sick. We recommend that you change your passwords at least twice a year, though changing them more frequently is the best way to ensure maximum security.

No names: Don’t use names in your password. Oh, and I mean don’t use any names. If you use the name of your spouse, your sister, or even your pet as your password, and then list that information elsewhere on the web, it won’t take long for someone to find it and test it out. Your best bet is to leave all personally identifiable information out of your password.

Don’t take the bait:  Phishing is a fraud that affects millions of innocent people every year. The way phishers operate is by posing as a trusted contact (usually a bank or other financial institution) and then asking users to verify their account information.

Rather than going to the actual website of the institution, however, users are transferred to a phony website that captures their login and password. You should always be suspicious of an e-mail asking you to confirm or authenticate your account information. If you sense something is wrong, call the institution and speak to someone. They will be able to verify the situation.

If someone does crack into one of your accounts, it could mean big trouble for your online reputation. Stay on top of your identity online with MyReputation from Reputation.com. With MyReputation, you can see where your name is mentioned on the web and take control over your personal brand.

For more up-to-date information on the ever-changing digital world, follow Reputation.com on Twitter.  Don’t forget to also join them on Facebook.



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