The first Thursday in May is World Password Day (not to be confused with Change Your Password Day, which took place in February). If it seems like there’s a day for every possible event or idea, you’re right, but this one has serious merit. Please note I am not criticizing National Crayon Day, National S’mores Day, or National Hat Day, but if you celebrate World Password Day by improving your passwords and increasing your cyber security, you may save yourself from identity theft.
Friend Or Foe? We think of passwords as strings of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters that unlock our digital lives. That’s not how they started. Let’s say you are the sentry at the gate of a medieval castle under siege. Here comes a knight on his horse, demanding entry. How do you know it’s safe to let him in? He knows the password. Or you are crossing a battlefield in World War I. A soldier calls out to challenge you. You’d better have the right password. From spoken security measure to complex passphrase, it’s all about safety.
Don’t Use These Passwords. 123456. Password. Your wedding anniversary. Your Mom’s maiden name plus her birthday. No, no, no and no. Do not use anything like any of these as a password. Cybercriminals are also social engineers. They are successful because they know how you think, they have super-fast computer programs to guess at passwords, and they have access to hacked data. If you’ve ever used your mother’s maiden name, father’s middle name, or first pet’s name as a security question or password, it’s probably in a hacked file somewhere, just waiting for a criminal to buy it and make your life miserable.
Strength In Numbers (Letters, Special Characters). First, don’t ever reuse a password or create passwords that are similar to one another. If a hacker gets into your Facebook account and you use the same password for your online banking, guess what? Bye-bye hard-earned dollars. Next, do your homework on ways to create strong passwords. At the very least, you passwords should be eight characters long, not include any personal identifying information, use uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, and avoid obvious substitutions, such as ! for I, or # for H. Don’t stop there. Sixteen characters are better than eight, a passphrase can help you generate a random password, and if you have the option of two-factor authentication, take it.
Manage Your Passwords. You’ve made a great effort to create different strong passwords for your many logins, but you can’t remember them so you write them down. Oops. That’s not very secure, is it? Maybe it’s time for a password manager to store your passwords securely. In addition, when you want to add an account or change a password, it will create a secure password for you. Check out options and recommendations with an online search, or start with suggestions from PC Magazine and CNET.
More Than Once A Year. Today is a great day to review and change your passwords, but don’t limit your updates to one day a year. Make it a habit to change them more often, even if you use a password manager. Data thefts are common, and we are all vulnerable. Be safe, be secure, and make sure your password is not password!