Online security is a vast and vital topic, and password security is one element of that topic that affects nearly everyone. Check out the six tips below for fundamental ways to make your passwords more secure.
1. Use a variety of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Most websites and accounts supply rules about the minimum length of passwords and the mix of characters required. It’s best to have a variety of characters in a password. While you might not want to use a random string of characters because you know you won’t be able to remember them, you can use a mix of characters that both makes sense and provides increased password strength. For example, the password “beachhouse” is not very strong because it only contains lower-case letters. However, the password “[email protected]$3,” which uses a few simple substitutions, is much stronger and still retains a semblance of meaning.
2. Use a variety of passwords, especially in highly sensitive situations like bank accounts, email, and social media profiles. The logic behind this is clear: if you use the same password for everything, it would be an enormous hassle (or worse) if that one password became comprised.
3. Consider applying passwords to lock your phones, tablets, and computers. Many people think of digital security as applying only to protection against online threats. It’s also a smart practice, though, to keep your devices safe from people who may have direct physical access to them. Sometimes, these threats can be relatively harmless, like forgetting to log out of a social media site only to have a “friend” sit down at your computer and make an embarrassing post from your profile. Now, consider a scarier prospect: you lose your phone, which isn’t password protected, and some unscrupulous individual finds it and has access to your email, social media accounts, and contact list.
4. Beware of phishing schemes. A phishing scheme is a type of attack that attempts to trick a person into giving up their personal information. Online, this might involve a fraudulent website that is created to look like a legitimate website. When a person attempts to log in to the fraudulent website, they’re actually supplying the perpetrators of the scam with their login information to the legitimate website. If you’re suspicious, it’s best to manually type in the URL of site that you’re visiting or to bookmark the legitimate URL. Similarly, phishing scams can come in the form of emails asking you supply confidential information. An email like this, especially from someone you don’t know, should always raise a red flag.
5. Change your passwords periodically. This is always a good practice, and some sites actually require that you change your password after a certain period of time.
6. Research password management software. There are a variety of programs on the market, such as LastPass and KeePass, that help you manage all of your different passwords. The main benefit to password managers is that you can create very strong passwords without worrying about forgetting them. When using programs like these you only need to remember one password–the one for your password management software.