5 Computer Password Tips to Keep Your Online Accounts Safe

It seems like you can’t do anything these days without first creating a secure password. Remember when all you had to do to get manufacturer’s coupons or earn travel miles was sign up for club memberships with your name and address so the company had somewhere to send things? Now you can hardly read the celebrity news of the day or get cat litter coupons without first signing up for an online membership and creating a password-protected account. The nice thing, of course, is that this should help to protect your personal data, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. And truthfully, every keystroke online can be a valuable commodity when your preferences are considered marketable to the highest bidder (just look at the Facebook debacle resulting from the company selling “anonymous” batches of data pertaining to likes, shares, and other preferences). In addition, you actually have plenty of truly sensitive data online, such as banking and credit information that you don’t want people to get at. So passwords are of paramount concern. And here are a few tips to make sure yours are going to protect you.

  1. Don’t use personal data. You should never, never use personal data in your passwords. You might not think that random strangers can figure out your birth date or anniversary, your dog’s name, or your favorite sports team, but when you accept Facebook friend requests from every Tom, Dick, and Hacker Harry and then post a pic of your anniversary dinner, your dog at the park, or your day at the arena sporting a Red Wings jersey, you may as well be giving your passwords away. However, trouble can be easily averted by simply using non-personal passwords.
  2. Make passwords random. Many sites that require passwords also strive to force you to create secure ones by rejecting those that aren’t at least eight characters in length and don’t contain a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, just for example. But still, people make easy-to-decode passwords like “Password1″ or their initials plus sequential numbers (JD123456, for example). Your passwords are only as strong as you make them, so don’t make it any easier for hackers to break into your private accounts.
  3. Avoid common passwords. Each year, lists of common passwords are published by media outlets, so you might want to check them out to make sure you aren’t one of the people using the most common passwords out there. This list can also give you an idea of what kind of passwords to avoid, including first names, sports categories, and number sequences, all of which were made the list in 2012.
  4. Consider an acronym instead of words. The main difficulty with creating strong passwords for most people is remembering them, especially since you are advised to avoid using the same passwords over and over. So think about using an acronym, which will appear random but make sense to you. For example, instead of using your wife’s name and the date of your anniversary, you could use a phrase like “My anniversary with Carol is June 12, 2010″ and turn it into MawCiJ12/20ten. Or you could transform “I love my 3-year-old puppy, Wishbone” into password blog.

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