Data security and identify theft are major causes of concern whether you’re a small business looking to protect your customer’s data, or just someone looking to safeguard your social insurance number and other personal information. While many companies spend billions of dollars on information security, the easiest and simplest way to protect yourself is to use secure and complex passwords for your online accounts.
If you’re one of the people who uses “password” and “123456” to protect your most personal information, try these ideas to make your passwords more secure.
Make Passwords at Least 12 Characters Long
Many sites that ask you for a password require it to be at least 6 to 8 characters long. However, since a longer password is harder to crack, you should aim to create passwords that are at least 12 to 16 characters.
Assuming that you can use any letter, number, or special character in your password, every additional digit creates over 40 times more combinations. Adding another half dozen characters to the typical password makes it infinitely more difficult for hackers to force their way into your personal data.
Use a Combination of Letters, Numbers, and Special Characters
When creating passwords, variety is the key to strength. A solid password should include upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters, when allowed. If you want to make things a little easier on yourself, trying replacing regular letters with special characters. For example, the word “password” could become “P@ssw0rd.” While a mashup of random characters usually works best, using this technique can turn ordinary words and phrases into strong passwords.
Avoid Familiar Terms and Dates
Birthdays, anniversaries, and popular words may be easy to remember, but they don’t belong in passwords. Putting any information that links directly to you can make it that much easier for hackers to figure out your password. You may love your children Blake, Emma, and Riley very much, but making your password “BlakeEmmaRiley” is not a good idea.
Regularly Change Your Passwords
Don’t give hackers as much time as they need to try to figure out your passwords. Changing passwords every couple of weeks or so helps ensure that hackers keep shooting at a moving target. Make sure that you’re doing more than just changing the last character of the password and never repeat passwords.
Use Online Password Management Tools
Keeping track of a different password for every one of your online accounts that’s changing every couple of weeks can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there are online password managers that can help keep track of everything for you.
Consider using a tool such as Dashlane or Password Safe to handle the safe storage of all of your passwords. Many of these sites can even automatically update your passwords for you.