Better Passwords: Keep Your Information Secure!

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

It could be your email, your pictures, or your company documents and files – whatever you have on your computer needs to protected from hackers, identity thieves, nosy employees and other cyber troublemakers.

Imagine if all of your private, personal and company information were available on the public Internet. And then, take a few minutes to follow the steps below and help make your systems more secure.

Use a different password for each important service
Make sure you have a different password for every important account you have. Hackers will steal your username and password from one site, and then use them to try to log into lots of other sites where you might have an account.

Even large, reputable sites sometimes have their password databases stolen. If you use the same password across many different sites, there’s a greater chance it might end up on a list of stolen passwords. And the more accounts you have that use that password, the more data you might lose if that password is stolen.

Giving an account its own, strong password helps protect you and your information in that account.

Make your password hard to guess
“password.” “123456.” “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” These examples are terrible passwords because everyone knows them – including potential attackers.

Making your passwords longer or more complicated makes them harder to guess for both bad guys and people who know you.

Complex and lengthy passwords can be a pain – the average password is shorter than eight characters, and many just contain letters. Analysis shows that only 54 percent of passwords include numbers, and only 3.7 percent have special characters like & or $.

One way to build a strong password is to think of a phrase or sentence that other people wouldn’t know and then use that to build your password.

For example, for your email you could think of a personal message like “I want to get better at responding to emails quickly and concisely” and then build your password from numbers, symbols, and the first letters of each word—“iw2gb@r2eq&c”.

Don’t use popular phrases or lyrics to build your password—research suggests that people gravitate to the same phrases, and you want your password to be something only you know.

Keep your password somewhere safe
Research shows that worrying about remembering too many passwords is the chief reason people reuse certain passwords across multiple services.

But don’t worry – if you’ve created so many passwords that it’s hard to remember them, it’s OK to make a list and write them down. Just make sure you keep your list in a safe place, where you won’t lose it and others won’t be able to find it.

If you’d prefer to manage your passwords digitally, a trusted password manager might be a good option. Many web browsers have free password managers built into them, and there are many independent options as well.