Having a strong password for your sensitive information is a crucial part of your security set-up. Even though this is something everybody knows, it is still quite common for users to have extremely weak passwords protecting valuable and sensitive information. These range from the same thing as your username to equally absurd passwords like 12345 or abc123 or password. (That last one is a bit hard to believe, but true).
Use of heavily encrypted passwords such as those suggested by your browser are virtually impossible to hack, but equally impossible to remember. Frequently visited websites from the same computer may remember the password, but if you clear your cache or your cookies, you will have to reset it.
A few things to avoid when setting passwords:
- Use of anything similar to your username
- Use of anything similar to your actual name
- Use of an English language word as the sole password
- Use of the same format as other passwords you use. (first777last as an example)
- Use of the same password across multiple platforms
A few things to put in play when you are constructing your own passwords and not letting your system do it for you:
- Minimum 6 characters, more is better.
- Use of numbers with words and any allowable symbol
- Upper and lowercase letters in non-grammatical ways
- Something you can remember the root of, but would not be in a bio sketch of you
These are some practical solutions to this messy problem with technology we presently have access to:
Password management programs
There are several of these on the market now. I personally use 1Password. Lastpass and Dashlane are also well reviewed. It is a cloud based app that can be viewed on any device. The protection comes from a master password which is a lengthy phrase mashed together into a single word. An example would be a sentence like, “bowling a 300 is a perfect score”. Mashed into “bowlinga300isaperfectscore”. Then all of your entered usernames and passwords are viewable and can be automatically populated into the appropriate website.
This will also store bank account numbers, credit card numbers, passport numbers (if you choose), so that master phrase has to be great!
This is the relatively recent development of fingerprint scanners, facial recognition software, iris scanners, etc. There is a tremendous push to develop these technologies both for ease and convenience and to decrease the access of your accounts to hackers. They may be able to figure out your password, but not your fingerprint or facial topography. I always use the fingerprint technology when the platform allows it for those same reasons.
Until this method is ubiquitous and we have figured out how to minimize any undesirable side effects, the password manager program is the way to go.