Cyber hacking of consumers’ online data has become so common that strong passwords are now essential. What elements make for a strong password? Here are some simple security tips to protect your personal data from being hacked.
The most basic cyber security
Passwords are just one aspect of keeping your online personal data safe. You should make your computer accessible only by fingerprint reader, a personal identification number (PIN) or a password. Additionally, avoid clicking on any links within an email that purports to come from your bank or credit card company, as this could be a phishing scam. Instead, go to the company’s website independently and log in to your account.
But the most basic and important security precaution you should take is to create strong passwords for all your online accounts. And not just one password, but several, since you should never use the same password for more than one account.
Here are some keys to creating a strong password.
- Make it long. Expert opinions vary as to how many characters you should use, but many suggest a minimum of 12.
- Never use your name or some portion of it.
- Do not use important life dates that are public in any way, such as birthdays or wedding days.
- Do not use the word “password”. Using a substitute character such as a zero for the letter “o,” as in “passw0rd,” is not that difficult for a hacker to figure out.
- Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use them in predictable ways, such as capitalizing the first letter of words or using dashes between words. Mix things up, capitalizing the second letter of words for instance, or using multiple, different symbols.
Methods for creating strong passwords
Choosing words that make sense together and are grammatically correct is predictable. So choosing “BlackLab123” because you have such a dog is not that hard for a hacker to figure out. Rather than connect words that make sense together, there are less predictable methods that make for strong passwords.
The first is to string together unrelated words and commit those to memory. “Redfootballcatflower65” is random and unpredictable. Choose a pattern for capitalizing and adding symbols, such as “reD#foOtball_caT+flower,” which capitalizes the third letter of each word and uses symbols between words in the order they appear on your keyboard. Creating fragment hybrid words is also a possibility.
Another method for building a strong password is to create a phrase known only to you, then create a word from the first (or second, or third, etc.) letter of each word. For example, the sentence “John sells real estate in Nashville, Tennessee since 1999” becomes “jsreints99”. Again, randomly capitalize letters and add symbols to lengthen and strengthen the password.
There are several password manager apps available to help you keep track of your passwords. Dashlane is generally considered to be excellent. Google has a built-in password manager called LastPass, and Apple has KeyChain. These tools make it possible for you to keep all your passwords in one place. To access them, you simply create one strong password for the manager itself.