Is your data as secure as it could be? Are you an easy target for hackers, either personally or through your business? Most of the men and women we work with don’t know the answers to those questions. And to be fair, there’s no way to know whether criminals are going to target you specifically.
Still, we find that many of our new clients have been neglecting their most important weapon against cybercrime: a strategy for setting and managing their passwords.
Believe it or not, just a little bit of attention to this one small part of your life can go a long way towards determining whether you’ll eventually be dealing with fraud and identity theft or if criminals will turn their attention elsewhere. That’s because taking the time to set strong passwords is the online equivalent of carrying a nightstick with you on the street. Conversely, using simple ones isn’t that much different than leaving your doors and windows open for anyone to come in.
Knowing that, let’s take a look at five solid password management rules you can use starting today…
#1 First, Use Complex Passwords
A lot of people don’t realize this, but hackers can use automated software to crack simple passwords (like names and complete words) within tenths of a second. Make your password at least 16 characters while adding in some capital letters, numerals, and symbols, and you could change that to months. Criminals don’t have that much time, so they’ll move along (or be discovered) before they ever get in.
#2 NEVER Use One Password for Everything
Yes, it’s convenient to use one password or security reminder question for everything. But no, you shouldn’t do it. No matter how secure your passwords are, you ought to have different ones for each website you use, and particularly for any financial institutions you do business with. That way, someone who finds their way into one of your accounts won’t be able to access the rest automatically.
#3 Change Your Passwords Frequently
It’s a good idea to change or update your passwords at least once or twice a year. If this is all starting to sound like a lot of work, remember that there are a number of free and low-cost tools you can use to generate random passwords and keep track of them. Whether you use software or not, though, it’s a bad idea to hold onto the same passwords for years on end.
#4 Keep Offline Reminders of Your Passwords
Of course, you don’t want the passwords you’ve set for all of your most important accounts and websites to disappear if you have an issue with your computer or mobile device. So, while your updating your passwords every 6 to 12 months, be sure to write them down (or print them out) and keep them in an insulated safe or another secure place. The whole process will only take you a couple of hours, which is a lot better than the weeks and months you’ll need to undo the effects of identity theft.
#5 Don’t Share Your Passwords With People Who Don’t Need Them
Finally, don’t let all of your hard work go to waste by sharing your passwords of people who don’t need them. Employees, contractors, and friends generally don’t need access to your accounts, and you should never send your passwords to someone else via text or email.
Having good passwords won’t protect you from every kind of online crime or theft, but it’s definitely a start in the right direction. Put these five pieces of advice to good use and prevent hackers from taking the easy way into your website or personal life.