Time and time again we hear stories about user account information being leaked online. In June, 6.4 million LinkedIn passwords were made public and yesterday thousands of Yahoo account passwords were leaked online. It is now more important than ever to be sure you have a secure and frequently updated password.
Creating a Secure Password
While passwords like “password” or “fluffy” are easy to remember, they are not secure. These short, simple passwords are the first passwords hackers will use to try and gain access to your account. A common misconception is that secure passwords are hard to remember, however this doesn’t have to be the case. Let’s say you have a cat named fluffy, and that she is brown. We can easily create a secure password out of this:
Start with a sentence: Fluffy is brown.
Remove the spaces (keep the period): Fluffyisbrown.
Intentionally misspell a word or use shorthand: Fluffyizbrwn.
Add numbers that are meaningful at the end to add length: Fluffyizbrwn2012.
As you can see, it was relatively easy to turn something memorable into a secure password. It is also always a good idea to run your new password through a password strength tester.
Change Your Password Frequently
The most important time to change your password is if you hear your online service had a leak. If you have a Yahoo or LinkedIn account and you have not changed the password yet, DO IT NOW!
In addition, be sure to cycle your password on a regular basis. The general “best practice” in use by most businesses and online banking sites is to force a password reset every 90 days. For personal accounts, such as email or social networking, I would recommend doing the same. If that’s too frequent for you, try to at least change your passwords every 6 months or twice a year.
Now, do yourself a favor and spend 5-10 minutes changing your passwords to prevent hours of stress and work dealing with a hijacked account later.