How to pick a good password? Nowadays, we need a password for just about anything. Partly because we’ve all online accounts coming out of our ears. You need a password for online banking, to book a holiday, for work, to pay your electricity bill and of course just to get into your computer in the first place.
Things are changing – two factor authentication, biometrics and facial recognition are taking more of the heavy lifting of our finite memories, but passwords are still inescapable. But as we all know it’s just about having passwords, but the right passwords.
So we’ve got some tips on password dos and don’ts.
Choose a strong password
It’s a fine balancing act between picking something you can easily remember but that a fraudster can’t guess. This means not your date of birth of anything else that can be worked out that’s connected to you. These days, a lot of websites have password specifications. Most ask for a minimum number of characters (normally from 8 to 12), a combination of lower and upper case, special symbols and numbers. This isn’t just to make you jump through hoops, but rather adds several dimensions to your password and thereby significantly reduces the odds of it being hit upon by criminals.
Don’t use the same password for every account
Fairly obviously, it’s not a great idea to pick one password and apply it to everything. It’s tempting and makes the memory a whole lot easier, but it also means anyone who somehow cracks one of your codes suddenly has access to everything else as well. A better option might be to opt for passwords that have certain common features, for example the same beginning, but with differences. Don’t have them all down on a piece of paper at the back of your wardrobe. If necessary, use a password manager such as Apple’s Keychain app. Lastly, avoid sharing your passwords. This is equally and especially important with technicians and colleagues. If people need to access something that requires one of your passwords, 1) log them in yourself, and 2) stay with them for the duration of the session.
Change your passwords regularly
Few of us probably do this enough, to be fair. Some websites do send you annoying emails to force you into choosing a new password every so often. But even for those that don’t, it’s a good idea to make a point of changing your passwords from time to time. It doesn’t have to be every week, but just enough that you’re several steps ahead of any potential fraudsters. The thing to consider here is that it isn’t just you or your computer that could get compromised, but the companies that you have accounts with. Data breaches are clearly not unheard of, even at firms that hold thousands of accounts. Keep your eyes peeled for suspicious activity, and also any news stories on companies that have been breached. Most importantly when prompted to change your password, actually change it rather than just swapping one letter or number.
There are signs that we are slowly moving on from the golden age of the password, but they remain a vital, albeit frustrating part of our daily lives. By taking some easy steps though, they can still be an effective way of securing our personal data and information.