With the rise of our Digital Age, more and more of our services, products, interactions, and workflows are transforming into online virtual experiences. One common element that is central to almost all of these experiences is the use of passwords. Passwords have basically become essential to everyday life in the Western world, and password security is of the utmost importance. Choosing a safe password (or preferably passwords) is crucial to avoiding attacks by identity thieves, criminals, hackers, and spam artists.
With all of these potential risks, there are a few tips and tricks people can use to strengthen their password security and protect their privacy, and even possibly their livelihood. These include:
-Use words, phrases, acronyms, or a combination of the three that are easy for you to remember and difficult for others to guess
-Avoid common or simple passwords such as: 'abc' & '12345' & 'drowssap' (AKA 'password' spelled backwards)
-Avoid using any biographical details as a basis for passwords including: names or nicknames associated with your real-life identity or those you are close to (including family members and pets), birthdays, mother's maiden name, where you grew up or where you currently live, where you work or what you do for work, and hobbies you are interested in that others could be or become aware of
-Create passwords that are a minimum of 8 characters and consist of a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols (NOTE: the more characters you use, and the greater variety with which you use them, the harder it is for a person or software to crack)
-Have different passwords for different accounts
-Get in the consistent habit of always logging off when you are finished using any type of online account, app, or any virtual service that requires you to log-in
-Changing your passwords periodically
-Avoiding logging in to secure sites or services while on any kind of unsecured Wi-Fi connections
-As a way of remembering and keeping track of various passwords, write yourself a tip sheet that will give you clues to what the password is without actually writing it out
-When possible, use two-step-verification such as opting to require a security code being emailed or texted to you for every individual log-in (ON TOP of having to type in your password)
-Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software that can protect you from being hacked or having your keystrokes logged
Along with these tips, there are a number of sites and apps that you can use to aid in your security. Some sites, such as The Password Meter and How Secure Is My Password?, enable you to check the overall security and strength of your password(s) by instructing you to enter your password(s) and then providing feedback about the strength(s) and weakness(es) of those password(s). (NOTE: when using these sites, DO NOT type in any actual passwords that you currently use, but instead choose ones that are similar to what you use so as to test the general fortitude of your methods!). Other sites, known as 'password managers' (such as LastPass and DashLane), give you a master password consisting of a long, random, and strong combination of numbers and letters (making it specifically difficult to hack) and allow you to store your log-in information for multiple other sites and then access those sites through your secure password-managed account. Also, most password managers include built-in password generators that can be helpful when choosing one that's secure.
While there is (unfortunately!) no such thing as 100% security, using these strategies will put you on the path to creating a more secure and protected virtual future.