Having Strong Online Passwords is the First Defense for Your Sensitive Personal Information
new passwords should be both complex and long to prevent hackers from stealing your money and sensitive personal information
The biggest mistake people make with an online password is making it far too simple just to be able to remember it. While this used to be acceptable at one time, modern hackers can quickly decode simple passwords for virtually any account. Your life can be turned upside down from only one person gaining access to your personal information, so make it difficult for them by using stronger passwords.
The first thing to consider when creating a new password is its length.
While most secure websites and programs will require a password containing a minimum of 5-7 characters, we recommend at least 8-10 and more if possible. While it is true that any password can be hacked eventually, you make it much harder to break your password by making it longer. Unfortunately, some websites, including banking websites, only allow passwords up to a certain number of characters. Limiting the length of a password to such a short number of characters seriously undermines the security of the site and the security of your information. If a company with whom you do business limits the length of the password, you should make your concerns known and look into whether that company is the right one for you.
Your new password should be complex.
Consider the following password: 123456789. This password is nine digits long and uses only numbers. On even the most basic computers used today, it would take only about ten minutes to break this password. On faster computers or computer networks used by hackers, this password can be broken in mere seconds. If you added lowercase letters to this password, a basic computer would take one or two days to break it and a hacker's network might only take two seconds.
Even if your password is long, it needs to be complex in order to be more secure. Make it as complicated as possible by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols and numbers. Some people have a tough time remembering these kinds of passwords, so you can use a sentence that has certain characters substituted for symbols. Take the following password sentence example that would take networks of supercomputers centuries to break: J@lapeno&H@baneroPepper$Are911H0t!
Don't simply use the names of your kids or pets or the street you live on. These are the first things someone trying to access your information will try. Birthdays and anniversary dates are also a bad idea.
Use a password generator if you need help.
If you need some help, there are a number of great password creation programs out there that will assist you in coming up with a strong, secure password. It's free and completely anonymous. Symantec's Secure Password Generator is a great option. Keep in mind that these passwords will be very difficult to remember, so it might be better to create your own using the sentence example from above.
Strong passwords are meaningless if someone else has access.
If someone else gains access to your password, it doesn't matter how complex it is. That person can have instant access to your online accounts. For that reason, it's important not to write down your passwords and leave them lying around.
It's also important to watch out for phishing scams, or websites and emails that mimic legitimate business websites and emails. Some emails can download software to your computer that sends your passwords to the hackers as you type them. Fake websites work in similar ways.