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Password Management 101

When we think of computer security, the word “password” immediately jumps to our mind; our own unique combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that gives us secret access to our personal accounts and information. But is your password really protecting you? If you believe the statistics (and you should!), probably not.

Don’t misunderstand us, here: a good password is your #1 defense against hackers (along with savvy techniques to avoid PHISHING attacks). Unfortunately, most of our passwords just aren’t good enough. And in an age when hacking software can test billions of passwords per second, “password123” is nearly as good as no password at all.

But hope is not lost! Your friendly, local computer experts are here to help make your passwords stronger, and your digital life more secure. We’re going to talk about the two most crucial elements of secure password management: how to create strong passwords in the first place, and how to remember them.

There are a few rules you should follow in order to create passwords that give your personal accounts and information a fighting chance at remaining private:

  • Make sure your passwords have 8 characters at the very least (shoot for 12)
  • Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters
    • Side note: special characters aren’t always allowed, and some account login systems are not case-sensitive, but do what you can!
  • Don’t use words you can find in the dictionary
  • Don’t use personal information
  • Don’t use common names or the names of people close to you
  • Don’t use obvious sequences (qwerty, pw123456, etc)
  • Don’t reuse passwords
    • In the unfortunate event one of your accounts is hacked, wouldn’t it would be nice to know you haven’t helped the thieves gain access to others?

Now that you’ve upgraded all of your personal passwords with unique, complex, and probably inscrutable strings of characters, we come to our second challenge: how do you remember them all? Now, we know our readers are some of the smartest around, but who could remember 20 unique passwords like Gq1119N@5l9r? You’re going to need help.

First things first: don’t keep your passwords on a piece of paper by your computer: that’s a disaster waiting to happen. And, while the popular internet browsers (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.) can all remember your usernames and passwords for you, browsers’ built-in password management tools aren’t as safe as we’d like. What you want is a purpose-built password management tool like LastPass or Dashlane. These tools do a lot more than just remember your login credentials. They also:

  • Encrypt your saved login information
  • Alert you when you’ve saved a weak password
  • Generate new, highly secure passwords
  • Automatically update your passwords for a large number of popular websites in seconds
  • Work with your web browser (even on your mobile devices) to make sure you can login to your accounts quickly and securely

You may have to pay in order to get a password management program’s best features, but it’s a very small price to pay for greater peace of mind.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about creating stronger passwords for you accounts. For a bit more information about what we’ve covered here, check out DarkReading’s advice for better password use.