What’s a password? ….. Necessity, Aggravation, Security? No one describes creating and maintaining passwords as fun!
Any online site that you give personal information to requires a password. Some are more critical in that those sites have access to your finances. All should have secure passwords, but have you counted how many passwords you currently are supposed to know? Let’s say your online presence is small and you have five email accounts, three credit card accounts, two bank sites, five online shopping sites, three medical sites, two utility accounts, two tax related sites, one investment account, and two social media accounts. 5+3+2+5+3+2+2+1+2= 25. So that’s twenty-five passwords. They should all be different, they should all be complex and they all have various questions or codes associated with them for recovery purposes. And of course some sites require that you regularly change your passwords.
DANGER DANGER! What if my memory can’t handle all that? If you keep your passwords listed on index cards, in a word document, or in an excel spreadsheet, you are providing any hacker or do-badder access to your whole life! It’s time to work on your security and peace of mind but where do you start? Eating ‘brain food’ doesn’t fix the I FORGOT MY PASSWORD! Problem, I can personally vouch for that. Here, I will give you some ideas but they aren’t gospel. Think this through and come up with your own plan.
ORGANIZE – The first thing you should do is figure out what you need passwords for and if you remember the passwords. Using a program like KeePass (there are others so ask around, but I’m using this as my reference) will let you store all your passwords in one encrypted file, with one password to unlock it. You’ll need to create your own password file in your secure password program. This program is just a database of your passwords. In a KeePass file you create, for example, you can set up folders to organize your passwords into manageable groupings like banking, social media, shopping, online games etc. You can enter a user name and password. The program will even generate a random password for you, if you’d like. There is a space to enter a hyperlink to the login site. Also included is a memo field for any security questions, pin information, etc., that you might need to gain access to the site if you password is corrupt or needs to be reset. I have found this part extremely helpful since more and more sites are requiring you to change your password frequently. If you haven’t logged on in a while, they might require some of this information to let you reset your password. If you have multiple emails and the user name isn’t your email address, it doesn’t hurt to record the email registered with the site in case they send you a password reset link.
THE ONE PASSWORD You will need to create a password for your password file, but in theory, all you have to remember is that one password. Make sure that one password is a) strong and secure and b) one you can remember (I’ll speak to this a little later.) I’d like to tell you that this works perfectly, however, I can’t stress enough that you won’t be able to hack into your file if you forget that one password. After you’ve created this one password, you can start to generate secure passwords and info for all your login sites.
CREATE SECURE PASSWORDS- Strong passwords generally contain both upper case and lower case letters, numbers and special characters, in an order that is random. 123456abc would not be a strong password! The second part of that, making a strong password you can remember is the trickiest part. Some suggest thinking of a phrase or something you are looking at and varying letters and numbers enough in a mutated form of the phrase or object that no one could guess it but you. Here’s an example (don’t use it, create your own!) The sentence “The cat ate the canary.” can generate a wide variety of passwords, for example ‘tHct8Thcanry!’, but there are many ways to take that one sentence and make a secure password. Other ways to generate your passwords are to use the program to generate random passwords for you and to use a word that pops in your head with random numbers and symbols in it. Make it fun!
MY NEW PASSWORD PLAN You’ve set up your file, you remember your secure password, and you are now at your computer or on your phone ready to log onto a site. You can open your password program, click the hyper link to the website and copy and paste the user name and password or just type it as you see it in your file. If you are asked security questions, you have the info recorded right there. Don’t forget to close your file after use, so it is not available to any ne who might walk by your computer or, worst case, hack onto your system.
We’ve discussed an outline of a plan to organize your user names and passwords. Your next step is to look at the different programs available and figure out which ones would look better for you. Some are portable (i.e., can be carried on a flash drive) some run on a Windows system, some on a Mac. And some like KeePass can run on your Android phone. Some keep your password records online, so they are accessible to you anywhere. BUT, as with everything, there are risks associated with keeping sensitive info online, and this is understandably sensitive info! You have lots of options. Stay tuned to our blog for more info! And as always, feel free to call About-Face Computer Solutions at (413)863-5447 or contact us via our website, www. about-facecomputers.com if you need more assistance!