About Our Guest Contributor: Jim Powell is a personal finance blogger at FinanceAfter50 focused on Finance, Food and Fitness at mid-life and beyond. His blog is located here: https://www.financeafter50.com/about/
Start with the obvious
As an IT manager for more than 20 years, it always amazed me how people were lax in their efforts to secure their passwords. The growing proliferation of online accounts only magnifies the risk if you’re not taking this seriously yet. The 2 most obvious mistakes are the following:
1. Writing your password down on a post-it note or any other paper
2. Using an easy or common password that includes: “Password” or “12345”
Don’t do that.
You’re seriously increasing the possibility that your password will be used inappropriately. That might even mean by a family member. A good portion of hacking is done from within companies because internal people have the easiest access to your physical computer. Cracking a password on one of your online accounts can be a gateway to identity theft. In fact, according to a recent study, ” In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud”. That’s 1 in 15 people.
It’s all about layers
With the increase in the number of online accounts you probably want to have a record of your passwords in a secure place. What I recommend is having a simple document file, either MS-Word or Excel that contains a password and is stored locally on your computer hard drive, with a backup copy on a USB drive. If you’re not familiar with setting up passwords on document files, simply Google “Password protecting Excel or Google docs”.
Within that file, I use a standard header whenever I set up a new login for any service. The data includes: Name of service, website, email address used, login name, password, date established, notes. I use that file almost every day and have for the last 20 years. Make sure someone you trust has that master password info, or keep a locked copy with your important documents in a fireproof lock box.
Make it easy to remember but smart
Creating a new password should be easy and fun for you to remember, but difficult for hackers or machines to crack. If you follow this one simple rule, you will be increasing your security exponentially!
How do I make my password easy and fun? While it’s never a good idea to use a name of a loved one or your Mother’s maiden name, it’s perfectly fine to add some elements to your favorite name or word to greatly increase security. If your favorite child or grand child’s name is KAREN, you’d never want to simply use that proper name as your password, but if you add some symbols and numbers to it, you can make it much more difficult for someone to figure it out.
Adding symbols or characters like @ and $ and simply replacing them for the letters A and S and tack on 4 numbers at the end will be pretty tough for someone to figure out. KAREN would become [email protected] – the numbers should be something that are easy for you to remember.
For each symbol or number you add, you decrease the chance that someone (or a machine) will figure out your password. While most security gurus also don’t recommend using the same password across multiple accounts, if you come up with 3 or 4 really strong ones like this, I’d say you can use a good one on several of your accounts. If they change, or if they are required to change, then it’s a good idea to make sure that your master file is always updated.
You can do this with any number of your favorite words, as long as you are sure to replace at least one letter (preferably two) with a symbol and also add 3 or 4 numbers to the front or back.
Change passwords if you use public WiFi
If you use public WiFi networks at the library or even in a respected hotel room when traveling, you should change your passwords when you return home. This could be a pain if you frequently use those types of networks, but you can also simply choose to not login to those particular accounts when connected to those networks. I never or rarely check my investment or bank accounts when I’m connected to a public WiFi network. If I do, I change or rotate my password after I return home. It’s just good practice.
Just 3 small things can increase your security and improve your peace of mind:
- Create a password protected master file with a backup.
- Chose a word or name that is easy for you to remember and use 1 or 2 symbols as letter replacements and combine that with some numbers.
- Change your passwords if you access your accounts via public WiFi
This should keep the bad guys guessing and they’ll most likely move on to an easier target.