Tips to help improve password security
Many of us spend a great deal of time on our computers and mobile devices connected to the Internet. In order to access certain secure websites, like the sites you use to do your online banking, you need to have a password. But if you are still using your name, your birthday or your cat’s name as your secure password, it is time for a refresher in keeping your passwords up to date.
Today, it is increasingly vital to create secure passwords for your virtual life. Unfortunately, there are sophisticated criminals using advanced technology to decipher your passwords in order to gain access to sensitive information or commit identity theft-related crimes. Banks and the authorities are working on ever-stronger methods of protecting your information, but there is no substitute for a strong, effective, frequently revised password.
Tips to help improve your password security:
- Easy recall. It is important that you can commit to memory whatever password or passwords you create. It is more secure than having a sticky note stuck to your desk with your password on it, especially if you are in a public work environment. If number, symbol and letter combinations are too difficult for you to recall, try choosing a word or phrase and spelling it backward. For example, the word “significance” becomes “ecnacifingis.”
- Change it up. A password made up of a combination of numbers and letters is more desirable than one made up of just numbers or just letters, which is easier for criminals to crack. It is also best to include lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and characters such as * or #. For example, the password phrase “Serenity now!” Becomes “$eReNitY n0w!” (You will need to remember which letters are uppercase and lowercase, of course.)
- Size matters. It is much better to have a longer password than a shorter one. In fact, some say it is preferable to use a passphrase rather than just a password. For example, “my gIrL WakeS up AT 6” is a strong passphrase. In any case, 10 characters should be the minimum, but using 20 or more is stronger.
- Password generators. There are programs available that will generate and remember secure passwords for you, such as 1password by Agile Web Solutions. This type of program works directly in your web browser and can be synced to all of your computer and mobile devices.
- Do not be redundant. It is best to use multiple passwords online rather than just one, because if a hacker does get your information, he can use that password to access your Facebook or email account and other valuable information.
- Be unpredictable. Avoid taking the easy way out by choosing simple password combinations such as consecutive letters or numbers, your name, or the family dog’s name. Also, resist easily guessed passwords, including your college’s name, your child’s name or your favorite baseball team. Try picking a sentence and using just the first letters of each word as your passphrase, e.g., “You are the love of my life” becomes “YATLOML.” Make it more secure by changing it to “YatL0mL$*.”
- Boost security. Error on the side of caution by having not one but two base passwords. You can use each to keep more sensitive accounts separate from less important ones.
- Always update passwords. To keep your security intact, it is important to update your passwords on a regular basis. You cannot do it too frequently, but once a month is a good rule of thumb. You can switch the lowercase and uppercase letters, change special characters of your existing passwords, or change the password entirely.
Make password security a high priority if it is not already. Incorporating the tips above should help keep your personal information safe and offer you more peace of mind. If you use online banking, that should be one of the first password updates you make. If you have not yet tried UCCU’s personal branch online banking, sign up today by visiting uccu.com/personalbranch. Just remember, be password-savvy.