cyber criminals

How to Make Your Passwords Really Secure

How to Make Your Passwords Really Secure 150 150 Kerry Butters

Without passwords, cybercriminals would have free, unlimited access to all of your accounts and online information. Indeed, the password is the first line of defence against such thieves, and so it is very important that you consider them carefully.

To make your passwords really secure:

1. Invent something long that is made up of letters, numbers and symbols

One of the worst things that you can do is use a password that’s predictable or easily guessable. Far too many people don’t really appreciate the importance of password security, and rather lazily opt for ‘password’ or ‘123456’. Another temptation is to use publicly available information that you might think is particular to you – your phone number, for instance – but so many people do it, and cybercriminals will always be giving it a try.

Therefore create a password that is long ­– at least 15 characters – and uses a combination of mixed-case letters, numbers and symbols that will quite frankly be completely unique and unpredictable. It’s the only way.

Creating a unique, memorable, but all the same indecipherable password may indeed be the hardest part of your password security plan. One tip is to think of a phrase or saying that only you know and then use the letters and numbers from it to turn it into a password. So, for example, your phrase might be: “I only love my goldfish Fred and Linda 45 per cent of the time”. So, now, if you take the first letters of each word, this is what you’ll be left with “IolmgF&L45%ott”. Here you have a password that is made up of a good jumble of mixed-case letters, numbers and symbols, completely unique and utterly unguessable.

2. Use a unique password for each of your online accounts

The temptation may be to always use the same password for all of your accounts as this will be easier to memorise. Don’t, under any circumstances, do this. Just think if you used the same key for your home, your office, your car and your safe, and then one day it was stolen. The thief would have instant access to your whole life, and in some ways, the havoc an online criminal can create will be even more devastating. Though certainly not a vessel of convenience, the use of multiple passwords is essential so as not to leave every aspect of your online life completely compromised.

3. Keep your passwords safe

It will, of course, be very hard to memorise all of the complicated passwords that you are creating for yourself. You will therefore probably need to write them all down somewhere. Just be sure that wherever you put them it is in a place that won’t be discovered. This could even be somewhere on your computer, in a hidden file that you need a password to access. If you do this, then make sure you memorize the password to this file – if the only place that it exists is in your head then no one will be able to crack it.

4. Update your passwords frequently

You never know who’s lurking over your shoulder when typing in your passwords. Indeed, despite your best efforts, somebody may well stumble across your secret stash and gain access to all of them. You may even get really unlucky and have a cybercriminal crack one. Therefore you absolutely must make it a habit to update all of your passwords for all of your accounts regularly.  About once a month should be fine. Again, this is will, of course, be a bit of a nuisance, but protecting your online information is one of the most important things you can do. So stay safe and make the time.

5. Make sure your password recovery options are up to date

If the worst comes to worst and you do forget or lose your passwords, then make sure you have a way back into your accounts. Most services will send you a link to reset your password to a specified email account, so just make sure that you always have access to that account.

Sometimes you will have an option to attach a phone number to your profile so that you may receive a code via text to reset your password. Again, just make sure that if you lose, sell or otherwise replace your phone, that you also update your new phone’s information on your profile.

Another way some services like you to verify your identity in the event of a lost password is to have you set a secret question to which you must provide a secret answer. If this is the case, make sure it’s a question and answer that only you and you alone could ever come up with.

Strong passwords are actually a great defence against cybercriminals, so take the security of them very seriously, never hand them out to anyone, and always have a means through which you can recover them if they ever get lost or forgotten.