Keeping Track of Computer Passwords

In the age of the Internet, passwords have proliferated like bunny rabbits.

In fact, the entire process of getting on and using the Internet is filled with passwords each step of the way. Logging in to a wireless or company network: Password please. Accessing e-mail: Enter password. Checking your bank balance: Type in Password.

The same goes for shopping sites, buying movie tickets, even free sites like online newspapers if you want to check out past articles. Add to the information overload all the different user names you may be using for each site (is it your name, your e-mail address, your membership number?) and you’ve got the perfect storm for frustration and chaos. OK, what’s the password to get out of this mess?

Alicia on ‘What Could Happen’

‘First, the bad news. Since so much of our lives is now accessible online, if someone gets a hold of our passwords, things can get really messy, really quickly. Password thieves may start to use your account to see your private data, including e-mail, your phone messages, and worst of all, your bank accounts. With all that information and access, identity theft is a short step away, which as we all know, creates the ultimate headache. There exists a whole industry revolved around cracking people’s passwords, with complex computer programs that are able to solve the more common passwords.’

Sarah on ‘Mixing Things Up’

‘Now, the good news. By making your passwords less predictable, you can outwit anyone trying to steal your password, while not outwitting yourself and forgetting what it was in the first place. It is easier to start with what you should not use. These include: Your name, your spouse’s name, your pet’s name, your phone number, your license plate number, any part of your Social Security number, anybody’s birth date, any part of your address, simple patterns on the keyboard (example: 1234 or ‘qwerty’), or any of the above, with a single digit tacked on the end (example: ‘sarah1?). Some experts even go so far as to recommend not using any actual words from the dictionary.’

So, now that the whole English language has been ruled out, just how the heck can you get your passwords in order. A few tips:

#1: Creating The Ultimate Password
Every ‘expert’ has a different method for picking the ultimate password, but here are a few of our favorites.

1. Use the first letter of each word in a phrase you can easily remember. For example, ‘There’s no place like Seattle in the summer’ would be ‘TnplSits.’

2. If you really want to use a name, such as ‘JohnJacob’, try replacing the ‘o’ with the two parentheses marks, ‘(‘ and ‘),’ so it would be ‘J()hnJac()b.’

3. The longer the password, the better. It may take a second longer to type in, but it is harder to crack.

#2: Keep A Secure List
If you really must keep a list of your passwords, don’t keep it on a sticky note that’s affixed to the computer. (It sounds dumb, but it is a common practice.) A better approach is to have a notebook such as CrossItOff.list, where you keep all your passwords. Keep this in a secure location that only you have access to, like a locked filing cabinet.

#3: Change Passwords, Occasionally

One way to keep a secure password is to keep changing it. The problem is, the more you change passwords, the more difficult it will be to get used to the new one. Plus, frequent password changes often cause users to develop predictable patterns in their passwords or use other means that will actually decrease the effectiveness of their passwords. So we recommend changing your password(s) every 90 to 120 days, and don’t use passwords you have used before.