WICHITA, Kansas (KSN) – Work, email, banking, shopping: there are so many accounts and so many passwords. How do you keep track of them all? Computer security experts say we don’t have to. What if there’s a way to keep your online accounts secure and not worry about remembering a single password.
“I mean if it’s utility bills or something that I’m trying to pay, I just use the same one so I don’t have to remember 50 bajillion passwords,” explains Maria Wehby.
“I do have multiple accounts that have the same password,” admits Ashley Arnold, KSN Reporter.
DON’T REUSE PASSWORDS!
“Never use the same password for two accounts,” advises Kevin White, KSN Digital Director.
White says when a hack happens, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hackers use the data they collect to see what else they can get into. Ashton Smith, a computer specialist at Ribbit Computers, agrees.
“A lot of people don’t like to change it,” explains Smith. “A lot of people don’t like to remember it, so they use the same password for email, Facebook, and once they get one password, they have it all.”
So many accounts and so many passwords. How are we supposed to remember it all? We don’t have to.
“I use a password manager because I only know a few passwords that I use a lot. My email, how to unlock my password manager itself and maybe social media. The rest of my passwords I have no idea what they are,” says White.
The password manager is a software that creates a secure, random password for each of your accounts and remembers it for you.
“I don’t use their service, there is no service. It’s just software that allows me to access it. The files are encrypted so if I open up the Keepass database I can’t see what my passwords are,” explains White.
For those passwords we’d rather remember, the length is key. Experts say a password that’s 11 characters or longer is the safest.
“You always want to have one uppercase, one numeral and one special character. The more you have in there, the more complex you have it,” says Ashton.
“Never use the same password for two accounts,” Kevin White, KSN Digital Director
Be wary of websites that only allow passwords of six to eight characters in length.
“Oftentimes, people will pick random characters but make them short, like eight characters, and a computer can crack that pretty quickly,” says Kevin.
You want to think random phrases of words that include upper and lower case along with numerals and special characters. Also, avoid family names, significant dates and sports teams. The website Haystack can help you see how secure your passwords are. Remember, the longer the password, the better. And always use one password per online account.
Test your password’s strength using these online tools:
- Intel: How strong is your password?
- Microsoft: Password checker
- Gibson Research: How big is your haystack?
Manage your passwords with these tools:
- Lastpass ($12/year for all features)
- KeePass (free)
- Dashlane ($39/year for all features)
- 1Password ($35 – $70 / year for all features)
- RoboForm ($20/year for all features)
PROTECT YOURSELF BY PROTECTING YOUR COMPUTER
The security of your passwords is only as good as the weakest link in your overall security plan. It doesn’t do much good to protect your passwords only to have your password manager software compromised because your computer was compromised. If a hacker is able to install software on your computer that logs your keystrokes or targets your password manager, then your efforts will be in vain.
Keep your computer safe by following these important tips:
- System updates. Configure your computer to automatically update system software. When a vulnerability is found, hackers are quick to take advantage of it.
- Make sure your firewall is on. Windows and Macintosh computers have basic desktop firewalls that should be running. This helps to block people from accessing your computer remotely.
- Install anti-virus software and make sure it is set to scan your computer on a regular basis. Most will also help protect you from unsafe websites and emails.
- Use the Internet and email safely. Be cautious of emails and websites from companies or people you don’t recognize. If they make big promises, hesitate and check before moving forward.
- Backup regularly! Hackers and viruses aren’t the only thing that can delete your files. Hardware sometimes just stops working. Don’t be caught by surprise. Backup your files to an external hard drive and store it in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box.
Smart password practices
- Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters.
- Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites.
- Use a password manager to organize and protect passwords, generate random passwords, and automatically log into websites.
- Avoid passwords based on patterns on the keyboard.
- Any password using numbers alone, especially sequences, is easy to crack.
- Don’t use a favorite sport, birthday, anniversary or child’s name.
- Also in the top 100 most common passwords are swear words and phrases, hobbies, famous athletes, car brands, and film names.