OK, ‘fess up. Do you use the same password for a gazillion different websites?
Not long ago, I got a bunch of e-mails from people I follow on Twitter warning that my account had been hacked. Seems “I” was sending diet tips far and wide, and people foolish enough to click on “my” link got hacked too. Ouch. I hardly even look at Twitter, just signed up to see what the buzz was all about. I clicked on one little thing, something about someone trying to find me (I know, how stupid can you get) and boom, off my password went to some hacker in Russia or China, who sold it to a ponzi schemer.
How many other sites was I using the same password for?
I know, I know. It’s a pain in the you-know-what to have to remember and/or store a bunch of “secure” passwords. Who wants to go digging every time you buy a book, or read the New York Times, or check whether the electric bill is coming out of the checking or the credit card account? Nobody does. So what do over 60% of us do? Use an easy password over and over and hope for the best. Not. Good.
TWELVE MILLION pieces of personal information were illegally sold in the first quarter of 2012. Once your password is compromised by a security breach at, say, LinkedIn (June ’12), Twitter (May ’12) or eHarmony (June ’12 ) you are TEN TIMES more likely to be a victim of identity theft.
OK, OK! Say this to ourselves ten times: Buying, selling, saving, paying, transferring money? EVERY SITE NEEDS ITS OWN PASSWORD. A GOOD PASSWORD. Do you know what happens if your identity is stolen? Your g-mail account gets hacked? Months of misery. You might as well pull your fingernails out.
DO NOT DESPAIR. Shoring up the walls is easier than you might think.
What is a good password? Pop quiz — Pick the safest password:
Answer? It’s (B) YourDogEatsPoopandBeans
A good password is one that is hard for hackers to guess, and easy for you to remember. v2@t56Bbl_!*2dd is impossible to remember and believe it or not, easier than (B) to hack. Why?
Length is more important than gobbledegook. A hacker’s software tries out random combinations of symbols or dictionary words. The more symbols you use, the more combinations the software has to try out, and the longer it takes for it to crack your password. Weeks. Years. If it takes too long, the hacker gives up and goes fishing for easier prey.
Hide your passwords in a secure system, aka an “open source [free] password manager” that can be stored online and on your computer. I use Keypass and store it in Dropbox, so it’s accessible on my phone and computer. The only password I have to remember is for Keypass (Setting that up is another post, but it’s not hard). [UPDATE*** Dropbox is a heavily targeted site for hackers, so I no longer store passwords or manager on the site! JBW 4/14/14***]
The important thing is this: change your passwords. Use lots of different passwords. Make them long. Go ahead, be silly. Use words you can remember. Vary them for different accounts by changing the order of the words or adding numbers to the beginning and end. Use at least 15 or 16 letters. Make it fun.
Считать, что вы хакеры!
(Take that you hackers!)
I am quite possibly the last person on earth who should dispense advice about technology, so your additions, subtractions, corrections, scoldings and of course, accolades, are welcome! Acknowledgments to my daughter Grace who, as a computer science major, is living proof that the apple can indeed fall far from the tree. Thank you dear one.