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Do you secure the doors to your home with rubber
bands or an imposing lock? If your physical property is important enough
to protect with strong locks, then don't make it easy for someone to
access your digital property by using a weak password.
Your computer password is your first, last, and
best line of defense against damaging intrusions. Using a poor or common
sense password can leave you vulnerable to:
- Identity theft
- Theft of $$$
- Invasion of privacy
- Company data exposure
- Sharing sensitive or embarrassing information
What are the top 10 password mistakes? What
should you do to create and use more secure passwords? Avoid these
mistakes and learn how to make your passwords stronger:
1. Easy to Locate
If your passwords are written on Post-It notes,
hidden under your keyboard, typed on your smartphone or tablet, tucked in your
Day-Timer...then you are not the only one who can easily find them
there. If you absolutely have to, record them in a secure location or
use a password manager program. The best option are passwords that are
memorable and unique enough that you don't have to write them down.
2. Too Common
Your password consists of common phrases, obvious
patterns, "real" words or combinations of words. Hackers frequently use
attack dictionaries of English and foreign languages that look for whole
words or words pieced together. It is no longer safe to try odd
combinations like paperbagel or purpletiger.
3. Based on Personal Data
Does your password use information that can easily
be obtained about you? Avoid the name of your spouse, pet, kids; don't
use birth dates, phone numbers, addresses and so on. I once worked with
a woman who simply switched between the names of her grandsons whenever
she needed to change her password; easy to remember for her…and for most
people she worked with.
4. Based On a Personal Name or Login
Avoid passwords that are a form of a network login
ID in any form (reversed, capitalized, or doubled). Don't use a first,
middle, or last name, your initials or anyone's nickname.
5. Simple to Guess
Although they may not consist of personal
information, many other passwords are easy for automated programs or
even other people to decipher. Some people have passwords based on
common items or brands on their desk or choose a password around a dream
car or favorite vacation. Do pick a password that can be typed quickly
without having to look at the keyboard. This makes it harder for someone
to steal your password by looking at your keyboard.
6. Letters Only
More secure passwords consist of combinations of
numbers, special characters or punctuation marks as well as a mix of
upper and lower case letters throughout the password.
7. Short in Length
The shorter a password, the more opportunities for
observing, guessing, and cracking it. A strong password is at least 8
characters long. Some organizations now enforce a minimum length and
variety of characters to help strength the company passwords.
8. Too Old
You've used the same password for years. Usually it
will take a hacker a very long time to crack a long, complex password.
If you change your password every 90 days or as required by your
computer network, then the chances of your password being cracked are
even more diminished.
9. Always the Same
You have 1 bad password and use it everywhere.
Instead have several different ones in place so all of your accounts,
logins, and computers are not at risk if your password is discovered or
10. You Can't Keep Secrets
How many other people know your password? Even if
you shared your password for a good reason, your computer access is no
longer secure. Change your password and keep it a secret from everyone!
© Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro®
Dawn Bjork Buzbee
is The Software Pro®
and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office
Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist
(MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart
and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software
speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.
This article and
more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with
copyright and attribution.
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