column: Use strong passwords to protect your information online
Passwords, passwords, passwords. This topic is so important I wanted to repeat it. One of the easiest and most impactful things you can do to protect yourself and your information online right now is to use good passwords.
Just a few years ago, we probably visited a handful of sites each month that needed a user name and password. It was standard to have the same password for each site you visited and even more standard that the password was the name of your dog or first-born child, for example. Today, some people can visit up to dozens of sites a week that require identifying information.
The old methods of using the same password for all the sites you visit and using an easy password (such as a word found in the dictionary) just don't work anymore. The hackers have something called a "Rainbow Table" that can guess an easy password in approximately 1.3 seconds.
In order help protect against a Rainbow Tables attack, a password needs to be complicated and long. You may be thinking, "How am I supposed to remember a password with 10 characters much less manage 20 different complex passwords?"
Well, how important is your financial information to you? How much effort would you put into preventing identity theft? Getting into the habit of developing strong passwords — and using a different one for each account has to become second nature.
In the past month, five of my friends have sent me an email explaining that their email account has been hacked. Actually, I had already guessed when I received the emails with a link to sites none of us visits.
When hackers break into your email account and get your password, they have a program that can match up your profile with the top 100 sites you may visit. They then attempt to log into those sites using your information looking for ways to access personal data, credit card information and access to money.
With one compromised account, the "bad guy" can get access to your checking account, investments, work account, online shopping accounts and social media accounts, to name a few. That can happen only if you have the same user name password for all accounts.
So, what are the most common bad passwords we are still using? This article, "Top 20 most common passwords of all time revealed," looks at the top 20 from a list of millions of stolen passwords from the last year.
"Password," "123456" and "iloveyou" are in the top five! One of my favorites is "monkey." How did monkey become a favorite password? We can bet the top baby names in the past 15 years were Nicole, Daniel, Michael, Jessica and Ashley, since they come up in the top 20. Easy to remember is also easy to hack!
The top 500 worst passwords can be an interesting read: www.whatsmypass.com
Check out this list today to make sure your passwords are not in the top 500.
Do you leave your front door open at night when you go to bed? Do you leave your car unlocked with the keys in it when you go to the store? Probably not.
Choosing strong passwords for your online valuables is the same as locking your front door and taking the car keys with you into the store. Let's make it second nature to use a strong password to protect our online identity. Your identity is invaluable — worth more than any material possession you have.
Today's QT (Quick Tip):
Choose strong passwords and use different passwords for each site you visit.
1. Each password should have a minimum of 8 characters.
2. Include one capital letter, one lower case, one symbol and one number.
3. Use a phrase that is easy to remember. For example, “Soup is always a good choice for dinner”. The password would be $1@agc4D. Starting a password with a symbol makes it stronger. Using $ for the letter "s" and 1 for the letter "i" are just examples for substituting symbols for letters that you can remember.
Next time we visit, I will share tips on how to store those great new passwords! Don’t wait — go lock your door today before someone breaks in to your online house.
To get more great information about staying safe online, including access to free monthly newsletters, webcasts and more, visit the Center for Internet Security at www.cisecurity.org.