Whether or not you’re a LinkedIn, Last.fm, or EHarmony user, the recent news of stolen passwords may be just the wake up call you need to take a look at the way you use and manage online passwords.
On June 6, 2012, LinkedIn announced that more than 6 million encrypted passwords were stolen and uploaded to a Russian website forum. 1.5 million were stolen from EHarmony’s site by the same group, and Last.fm is also reporting a breach. While usernames were not listed, it’s likely the hackers have that information as well. If you use LinkedIn and haven’t already done so, you should change your password now.
If you’re like me, changing and strengthening your password is something you keep meaning to do. Perhaps you’ve even fallen into the trap of using passwords that would land you on the most common and easily hacked passwords list. When you’re trying to manage multiple passwords on business and personal sites, it can seem like a bit of an impossible task. So here are a few tips to make it more manageable for you and a bit harder for would-be hackers to wreak havoc on your personal information.
1. Create one strong password base – aim for ten characters with numbers, letters, and symbols. Try an easy to remember phrase and pull the first letter from each word in the phrase. This helps avoid actual dictionary words, which are easier to crack.
For example, “My address is 2420 Prince Avenue South.” would create the password “Mai2420PAS.”
2. Alter that password base as you need for various sites. For example, for Facebook, use “FB” in front of your base, creating “FBMai2420PAS.”
3. Never use the same password for sites involving money. Your Facebook password should never be the same as the one you use for online banking.
4. Change your password every 3-6 months. You might consider setting a reminder in your online calendar and have it repeat an alarm every 3 months.
5. Never change a password by following a link in an email.
If you need any more motivation to make the change, check out this website that determines the strength of your password. By adding a symbol to the one I was using, I increased the length of time it would take to crack from 3 hours to 108 days!
Increasing your online security doesn’t require code-writing genius. Increasing your password length, complexity, and variety is the key. A simple sentence, meaningful to you, with a few numbers and symbols worked in will create a password that takes centuries to crack but seconds to personally remember.