[2022 Update: this post from 2012 is still relevant today… although a little dated, and some of the links are broken and outdated. Today I’d recommend the password utility https://www.lastpass.com/ (which I use religiously), and then I’d add the strong recommendation to enable Multi-Factor Authentication wherever possible. But – the admonition to treat your passwords as underwear still stands the test of time!]
Most people I know lock their doors each night before they go to bed. Sometimes they double-check the doors before they go to bed to make sure they are safe. However, many of those same people don’t bother to take the same care with their online home. How many of you have secured your online identity with strong passwords? And even worse – how many of you have written those strong passwords down on a Post-It® Note and stuck it to your monitor?
Oh, I see – you think that it can’t (or won’t) happen to you? Read this blogger’s story on how someone from China hacked into her Gmail account, then stole her blog for the advertising revenues. She was careful too and didn’t expect it, but yet it happened to her.
Think about it – we all have LOTS of things in our email account that could cause us some serious grief if someone gained control of our account. Most websites let you reset your password by sending you an email. With control of your email account, someone could easily get into your Amazon account and your bank account too.
Maybe you even think your passwords are safe – but are they really? I thought mine was, then found out it could be cracked in less than a day. Go to https://www.security.org/how-secure-is-my-password/ and test out your passwords. This site will analyze them in several different ways to see how long your password would take to crack if it was under attack.
Of course, having a strong password won’t help if you just write it down and post it on your monitor. You need to store those passwords somewhere safe. I would recommend using either of the following password managers – both have desktop and mobile versions available:
- LastPass – https://www.lastpass.com/ *(Added for 2022)
- 1Password – https://agilebits.com/onepassword
eWallet – http://www.iliumsoft.com/ewallet*(Removed for 2022)
So – what should you do to protect yourself?
- Make your passwords long and strong – don’t use words that are in the dictionary
- Create a password by using the first letters of each word in sentence or a song lyric
- Use a secure password manager to keep track of your data
- Change them often – I know it’s a pain in the neck, but it is helpful – many times password databases are cracked, but the passwords aren’t used right away
- Don’t use the same passwords on your email, bank, and online accounts
To protect yourself, just remember this thought:
Passwords are like underwear:
change them often,
don’t share them with friends,
and don’t leave them lying around.
If you follow that advice, you will be much safer online.
Written by Lyle Luppes.