How To Craft The Perfect Password
With so much of our lives and personal information online, there has never been a more likely time to fall victim to identity theft. Think about it. You bank online. You pay your insurance online. Your credit cards. House payment. Car payment. Internet bill. Health insurance. Virtually no part of your financial life is truly “secure.” All it takes is one good hacker, and the best shot of keeping this 21st Century predator at bay is pretty primitive — your password.
As with a car thief, an identity thief is looking for the easiest target, and unfortunately, millions of Internet users are sitting ducks. Luckily, our friends at Allstate have shared some helpful tips for beating the odds. Here are seven.
Tip One: No Rover, No Spike, No Fido.
Many Internet users think they’re “fooling” the thieves by choosing a pet name as their password. Unfortunately, pet names are pretty common, and if you’ve ever shared your furry friend’s identity online in a forum or social media post, thieves are pretty savvy at tracking this information down. According to Allstate, you should always refrain from including personal info. “That includes Social Security numbers, maiden names, birthdays, anniversaries, the names of children, pets, or anything else that can be guessed, researched or discovered by a hacker,” the company warns.
Tip Two: Needle, Meet Haystack.
Most online security experts agree that using a long password containing both upper-case and lower-case letters and special characters is the way to go. “Using various types of characters in a long password increases the number of combinations a hacker has to try in order to crack your password,” the company notes, adding that it’s like the proverbial needle in the haystack, and to “hide that needle, you should use more characters, and characters of different types, to make the ‘haystack’ larger.”
Tip Three: ANP = Always New Passwords.
In other words, reusing an old password increases the likelihood that a hacker could gain access. Citing the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (USCERT), Allstate says that “it’s a good idea to change your password on a regular basis, especially after accessing accounts via a public computer.”
The insurer continues: “If you keep the same password to a certain website for many years, identity thieves have that much more opportunity to decode it. A rule of thumb is to change your password every 45 days. It’s especially important to change your password after using it on a public computer, because browsers on public computers can, in some cases, store your passwords, making them vulnerable to theft.”
Tip Four: The Pass Phrase.
This one takes a little more memory power, but if you don’t feel you’re slipping in that department, it can be very effective. “A pass phrase is a long string of unrelated letters, numbers and punctuation marks,” Allstate explains. “While a pass phrase can be difficult for a user to remember, this type of password is also very difficult to crack.”
Tip Five: The Sentence.
Pass phrase too difficult? Not to worry. You can also think of your password as a sentence and then “use the first letter of every word, mixing in caps and lower-case letters and a few numbers that you can remember, as the actual password,” the company notes.
Tip Six: Store With Memory Alone.
While it can be a good idea to write your passwords down on a sheet of paper, you don’t want to risk losing it, and that’s a distinct possibility when it comes to storing it in a wallet, purse, or cellphone. If you must write a password down, keep it in a fireproof combination-lock safe in your home.
Tip Seven: When It Comes To PWs, Do NOT ‘Kill Two Birds With One Stone.’
Far too many people select what they think is a good password and then reuse it for all their online accounts — at least the ones that allow it. The only problem here? If one of these passwords becomes compromised, the thief will have access to all of your applicable accounts.
Identity theft is common, and it can create havoc for your life, but don’t let the fear of it consume you. Instead employ the tips listed above, and you’ll be less likely to fall victim.