Your business just got a new email system and you enter your username, and then you have to choose a password.
Hmmmmm….you think to yourself. A password. Something sneaky, something tricky. Take that cyber thieves you think as you type out a long, complicated password and then you enter it in the confirm password box. *Passwords do not match.* Oh. You managed to forget your high-level, impossible to crack password within 5 seconds. You can’t spend all morning every morning trying to remember your password. You have things to do.
You weigh your options, leaning back in your chair, staring at the blinking cursor in the password box. You could write it out on a sticky note and post it to your computer. That doesn’t seem safe. Oh but what are the odds that anyone will steal it. Just enter something easy. You type in your spouse’s name, and call it good.
A few months later, you’re shocked, aghast that someone has hacked your email and is sending out spam from your account. How could they know? Then you feel a sinking feeling in your stomach – you’ve used the same password for your online banking. No, no, no, no, no, no, no – you rush to try and log in to your bank account. Access denied. You think about telling your spouse, whose name you so lovingly entered to protect all of your private information, that you’ve lost control of your joint checking and savings accounts.
“You OK?” your colleague asks as you push back from your desk, “You look kinda weird.”
You stagger your way to the bathroom to splash some cold water on your face. The word “idiot” starts making its way into your brain and unhelpfully keeps repeating itself.
Now what could have been done better to avoid this? 5 ways to ensure your password is a strong one.
1. Don’t use overly common passwords. From SplashData’s annual update from 2013, here are the top 10 most used, and therefore worst, passwords.
And don’t use a name that’s associated with you or a password that you’ve used before. Your name, your partner’s name, a parent’s name, a parent’s maiden name, a pet’s name. Just don’t do it. Easy to remember, yes. Easy to steal, also yes
2. Try using an acronym that will be easy for you to remember and nearly impossible for others to guess. Think of your favorite song lyric – let’s say it’s “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles. Take the lyric -We all live in a yellow submarine, and transform it into: WALIAYS.
3. Make it over 8 characters if you can with a combination of capital letters, numbers, and characters. The longer, the better for passwords, but make sure it’s something you can remember.
4. Combine 2 and 3. The hardest passwords to crack are ones that are random strings of numbers and letters and characters. But those are also the hardest to remember.
You can think of replacing letters with numbers or special characters. So for the “Yellow Submarine” example, you could add in 1966 – the year the song was released, and replace the I with a ! – WAL!AYS1966.
It’s longer than 8 characters and combines letters, numbers, and special characters with no words from the dictionary and nothing that’s easily identifiable with you.*
5. An alternative is to use a password generator. One of the better options is Password Locker. The program is a piece of software that you can keep a complex key to. Once you open it, you can create and generate secure passwords within the password safe itself and keep a list of them within that. Basically, you get a password safe.
*Please don’t use this exact password – find one that works for you!