Over the past couple of weeks, I have been prompted with a pop up every time I log into a site using my Gmail account and password, or any sites where my account info is saved in my Google account. Hackers have been running rampant. And unfortunately, these days data breaches are very common. Because of this, it is very important to protect your accounts with a secure password.
I have worked in IT for a long time. I will not tell you exactly how long… that would be showing my age. 🙂 In that time there have been several instances where I've had a need to ask a user for their password to log into a computer, configure an email account, diagnose a website issues, or for various other troubleshooting purposes. Very often, what the user gives me is something super simple that in some cases I remembered after putting it in twice. This is bad. Very bad. Your password should be something that you know well, but others cannot guess or catch on to. When it comes to your accounts holding sensitive data, you want to make sure that info is secure.
Here are a few tips for creating and using good passwords.
What is a Bad Password?
- Never use your name (or part of it) as your password in plain text
- Never use your child's name
- Never use your birthday as your password or PIN number
- Never use a password shorter than 9-10 characters
- Never use a password that those close to you can easily guess
What is a Secure Password?
A good password might look similar to “Ba8yG1rlL0ve$M03”. While it is pretty clear what it says to you, it is long enough and includes enough numbers, letters and other characters to throw off a password cracker program that looks for simple plays on words. A password should never look like MyBabyLovesMe. That is clearly just based on alphabets and easy to crack.
- Do make your password very secure
- Do mix letters, numbers, and symbols to create an effective password
- If you do want to use a play on names, make sure to mix it up with a play on numbers as letters, etc.
- Do have different passwords for very important things like your bank account and your utility bills.
- Do use separate passwords for things work related versus personal.
Securing your Smartphone
In addition, it's very important to password protect your smartphone. Your phone probably contains your life! You have your social media accounts, banking apps, gig jobs apps, and many other password protected services on your smartphone. Many smartphones will allow you to create a password, PIN, fingerprint, or even retina recognization. Setup a couple of different options for more security.
The Password Paper
I know that some of us have so many different accounts and passwords that it can be hard to keep up. I swear this gets even worse as I get older and I accumulate more accounts for different things. And…. these days many sites will make you change your password every 180 days. Eventually, you run out of combinations! And this may lead to the “password paper”. My mother (RIP) and my mother-in-law fall into this category, and I admit, I have started one (temporarily). They would ask for computer help, I would ask for the password. I spend 15 min waiting for them to either remember, or dig up the sheet of paper that has clearly seen better days.
Oy! But, as mentioned there are a few of my accounts that are always making me change it. There is no way that I can keep up. So, until I settle on a good password manage, I had to jot it down somewhere. And listen… a password paper is in no way secure, unless…
The “When I Pass Away File”
… it is locked in your safe. And this is not a horrible idea. When my mother passed, for the most part she had her important info in one place. However, she was in the midst of moving, so much of her stuff was packed. I had to search through and find some things. Not too long ago, I heard a story about creating a “when I die” or “upon my death” kit. While that sounds very morbid, it is unfortunately necessary. Death happens every day and we do not always know when it is coming. Make it easier on your loved ones by having important info, like account passwords, in one place. Just make sure that it's locked up safe, and that your family knows where it is.
Google Password Manager
You may be using the Google Password Manager and not realize it. This is what prompted me to check my passwords due to a breach. They make it easy. Password Manager allows you to see, change, or remove passwords you saved in your Google Account. It's a great idea to go through here and delete accounts that you are no longer using. And check for accounts that you do not recognize and get rid of them. You can also change less secure passwords. Check out the Google site to learn more.
Using a Password Manager App
A great password manager can help. Of course you can and should remember your every day passwords like your bank account and your email address, Twitter, and Facebook. But, some other things that you do not use every day you can securely store in a password manager. This is something that I need to work on. This is also useful for family members. In the event that you are ill family members can access the program and get passwords to vital information that they might need.
The 5 top rated FREE password managers on the Google Play store are:
- My Passwords – Password Manager
- DroidPass Password Manager
- Dashlane Password Manager
- Password Manager – Keeper
Each of these got 4.5 stars or above. That means that many users have tried them and given their feedback. Download a couple to test, and choose your favorite.
Unfortunately, hacking is something that we have to deal with more often now thanks to advancements in technology, there being a lot of shady people in the world, and the fact that we have so many account passwords. While you may never to be able to protect yourself 100% (unless you live completely off the grid), having a tough to crack secure password is one step in prevention.