Your ATM PIN. Your social security number. Your home phone number. Your cell phone number. Birthdays, Anniversaries. There’s already too much to remember – before you add in all the passwords for all the Internet sites you visit.
According to the National Security Institute, the average computer user has more than 40 accounts that require usernames and passwords. The easy solution is to use one password for all your accounts – perhaps a word or phrase that is easy for you to remember such as your dog’s name or your street address. Unfortunately, using the same password on all your accounts is one of the most dangerous things you can do.
Why is this dangerous?
Online accounts connected to your banking, mortgage, and medical records could pose serious identity theft opportunities if your passwords are compromised. The accounts and passwords you set up in Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social media venues control your online reputation. Using the same password on all your accounts is tempting fate – and significantly increases the possibility of identity theft.
Now that you understand the serious implications of using the same password, what should you do? Before you begin changing all the passwords on all your accounts – which you should do – consider how you will keep track of all these new passwords. You could:
- use a pad of paper and pen, listing your accounts and passwords and adding new ones that you create.
As you accumulate accounts, though, you may find it difficult to locate a needed password without thumbing through pages and pages.
- use an address book to track website addresses and their associated passwords in a logical alphabetical order.
- create a spreadsheet with columns for web addresses and passwords that could be updated and sorted for easy reference.
An additional problem with the above paper and pen and spreadsheet tracking systems: they may to be easily misplaced or the information may be easily copied by unscrupulous individuals.
- create unique, strong passwords that you’ll remember for each website.
Creating unique, strong passwords
Experts recommend the use of long, complex passwords that include upper-& lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to keep hackers at bay. The secret to remembering your passwords is creating your own pattern based on the website address.
Pick a number that has meaning to you such as
- your street number
- birth month
This is the number you will use to create your passwords.
For my example, I’ll choose 4.
Pick 4-6 letters that make sense to you but that aren’t a word in the dictionary such as
- The first initials of your family members (tttt– for Terry, Tom, Tim, & Tina)
- Your pet’s name backwards (revor – for Rover)
- An abbreviation of your street and hometown (eplrno– for East Pleasant Lake Road, North Oaks)
This is the constant letters you will use to create your passwords, use this in lower case.
For my example, I’ll choose an abbreviation of street and hometown: eplrno.
So far, you have a number and a set of letters that will be consistent for each password. You choose if you want the number(s) or letters to be first.
For my example, I’ll use the letters first so each of my passwords will begin with eplrno4
For added security, you could even add a “special character” (! # $ % ^ & *) into your password pattern.
For my example, I’ll at a $ before my number. My password is now eplrno$4
For the last part of your password, you’ll use part of the website name to create your password. You should use at least 4-6 characters.
As an example if you are setting up your password on Facebook.com, you can choose:
- Every other letter (FCBO)
- Just the consonants (FCBK)
- Just the vowels (AEOO)
For my example, I’ll choose every other letter: FCBO, in caps.
Using these four easy steps, my example unique password for Facebook.com would be eplrno$4FCBO.This is a strong password because it contains a combination of letters and numbers and no words that are in the dictionary.
Creating strong passwords that are easy to for you to remember is the key. Use the above four steps to create strong, easy-to-remember passwords that hackers will have difficulty guessing.
Spend a few minutes with steps 1 – 3 to personalize your password pattern. Once you’ve changed a few passwords using your new pattern, you’ll see how easy it is to remember what looks like a very confusing password. And you can always use a sticky note on your monitor to remind you of your pattern – but, please, don’t label it “My Password Pattern.” In fact, make it look like something it’s not. In my case, my note would look like this:
Easy enough for me to remember my Password Pattern, but nonsensical to others who might see the note.