Are your digital devices and online accounts secure? Not if you don’t protect them with strong passwords.
Unfortunately, many people neglect this crucial aspect of computer security. Surveys have shown that some of the most common passwords are still incredibly easy to guess – such as the word “password” or a series of numbers like “123456.” In 2013, Deloitte conducted a study of six million user-generated passwords, and found that the 10,000 most common ones would have accessed 98.1 percent of all accounts. Few people enjoy remembering dozens of complicated passwords, so when given the opportunity, they tend to choose the path of least resistance.
But while you may not think thieves are trying to gain access to your accounts, you should know that they most certainly are. If someone gets a hold of your email address, all they have to do is guess your password and they’ll have access to almost every other account you hold. That’s because most websites allow users to reset their passwords through email.
Do you think your email password can stand up to thieves? If not, you’ll soon have a good excuse to strengthen it. May 7 is World Password Day, and there isn’t a better time to take a closer look at the state of your online security.
Tips for creating strong passwords
The problem for many computer users is that they tend to treat passwords as unavoidable nuisances, rather than important security measures. And even those who understand their necessity are often more concerned with securing their computers and mobile devices from other members of their household.
It’s important to take security efforts much further. The key to a strong password is length, variety and unpredictability. It has to be incredibly difficult for someone else to guess – but easy for you to remember.
- How long should it be? A password should contain at least 16 characters, and the more, the better. Each additional character adds a new variable that makes a password that much harder to guess.
- What should it contain? The best passwords consist of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. One common technique is to replace letters with numbers or symbols that look similar (such as exchanging the letter “i” for the number “1”).
- Don’t repeat yourself. It can be tempting to use the same or similar passwords for every account you hold. But that amounts to holding the door open for a thief. Your first goal should always be to create a unique password for every log-in. Luckily, there are a number of tactics you can use to create a phrase or code that is easy to remember, but hard to guess. A recent article on CNet suggests creating a phrase and then using the first letter of each word to form your password.
A strong password isn’t the only thing that can protect your online security. May 7 is also a good time to consider additional security services, such as two-step identification. This will send a separate code to your mobile device whenever you log in to an online account, making it much harder for a thief to gain access with your password alone.
Ultimately, our efforts to improve our online security can only do so much to reduce our risk of identity theft. An identity theft protection like Identity Guard can help. By monitoring your credit, Social Security Number and public records, our service will alert you to certain activity in your credit file that may be indicative of fraud. With this knowledge, you can respond quickly, limiting the damage that identity theft can wreak to your finances.