This article was reviewed by Chris Singer, CFP®.
Have you ever thought about how many passwords you need in order to gain access to everything from your bank account to your favourite store’s website? And they all seem to have different rules about how long the password should be or which characters you can use. Password security is vital as we see more of our content go online into the cloud. What’s your strategy? Do you have 2 or 3 memorized passwords that you rotate or a list of different ones that you keep hidden at home?
Your Most Important Password
Your MOST important password is your email password. If someone can hack your email, then they can essentially gain access to most, if not all, of your passwords. They can also impersonate you via email and read your email history. Make sure your email password is unique and secure (continue reading for tips on how to do that).
So you might be thinking, “How can a hacker use my email to access my passwords?” Actually, it’s relatively simple to reset your password and gain access just by using the “forgot password” feature available on most websites.
Tips to Improve Password Security
- Security Levels – Use more secure passwords for websites that store sensitive info like your banking or investments, etc. If there isn’t any personal or private info stored on the site, like a food or activity tracker app, then it’s okay to use a simple password.
- Secure and Complex – This is a password that is at least 12 to 14 characters long, that includes both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. If you think simply adding an exclamation mark or ‘123’ at the end of your simple password is a solution, it’s not. Hackers know this is the most commonly used strategy for people.
- Alternative Solution – You could use a combination of non-related words that are extremely unlikely for anyone else (or any software program) to guess. For example, your dog’s name, your favourite vacation destination, a hobby or sport you enjoy, and your child’s birthday month, which results in the password such as RoverHawaiiSkiingMay. It’s even better if you insert some numbers and special characters randomly.
- Sayings or Phrases – An easy way to choose a unique password that is hard to crack but still easy enough for you to recall is to start with a phrase or saying that has some meaning for you. How about the name of your favourite band, a line from a favourite song or poem, or a phrase that you remember from your childhood? Be careful with this, as the super computers that hackers use can break passwords that are common song lyrics and phrases. You are best to alter it with some numbers or special characters, or combine unrelated phrases together.
- Password Management Tools – Using a password management tool that stores and generates secure passwords, such as 1password or Lastpass, makes it much easier. That way you only have to remember one password for ALL your logins. Some of them even have free versions that are perfectly adequate for personal or home use. To learn more, check out this recent comparison of password management tools published by PC Mag. Be sure you do your homework before using a tool like this.
Just making a few small adjustments to your current passwords can make a big difference. Stay safe out there!
Read our past article on Preventing Credit Card Fraud.