Passwords and security – yes, again . . .

We all know that we can’t use “password” or “12345” as our passwords.  Well, we have all heard that, but do we really KNOW it?  Have we abandoned using real names, real places and other easily hacked passwords?

It seems that every day brings news of a new data breach.  Millions of users account information, passwords, personal data, are revealed in every data breach.  But are we taking the time and effort to implement some of the simplest measures to try to avoid falling victim to those occurrences? For many of us, otherwise smart and diligent people, the answer is “no” or “not as much as we should.”

So, on this (hopefully lovely) Friday morning, please take a minute to consider your passwords and their security.  Have you heard the “passwords are like underwear, change them often and keep them private” truism?  We just heard it during a presentation yesterday and maybe that’s why this topic is on our minds.  The current wisdom is to have a long, complicated password, upwards of 20 characters, using capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and characters.  Perhaps you have created the perfect password that ticks off all of these boxes.  But another part of conventional wisdom is to have different passwords for each site and app you use.

How to remember all of them?  Are you writing them down and sticky-noting them on your desk or computer screen?  Are you continually resetting your password via the “forgot your password?” function?  One easy solution is to use a password manager.  These services are inexpensive and store all of your individual and unique passwords for you.  You then need to remember only one password – the one that gets you into your password vault – the password manager does the rest.

Another alternative is to create a “master password” that you then customize for each site or app.  Since we know that full names or real words are not the way to go, try using the first, or first and second, letters of a phrase that you will remember.  Use upper and lower case letters, then add on some numbers and a couple of special characters that you will reliably remember and you’ve got the beginning of your password system.  Does this seem too complicated?  If it does, please see the paragraph above about password managers.  Or perhaps you have a photographic memory and can remember dozens of passwords and none of this is necessary?

Whichever way you go, please stop using your children’s names, birth dates, pet names, etc. as part of your password.  Take a few minutes as the week winds down to revise your passwords if you need to, or explore the password managers out there (try LastPass, Dashlane or 1Password to start).

Happy Friday and happy passwording.

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