Strong Passwords Protect You From Identity Theft
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: April 19, 2017
The importance of picking a secure password can't be emphasized enough. Your password is the only way to verify that someone logging into a particular account is really you. In the scheme of preventing identity theft, this is at the top of the list.
Besides making sure you shred sensitive documents, store your information safely, review your credit reports and make sure you don't give out your credit card information insecurely, you need to have proper password management in order to be safe from identity theft. Identity thieves can hack into your accounts pretty easily and gain access to your identity information if you pick easy passwords.
We've seen some simply horrendous password choices: "password" and "abc123" being the most common passwords. On some level, people know that they should pick good passwords. Conflicting with this precaution is the knowledge that good passwords are hard to remember and they can't be troubled to write them down. They become lazy and pick passwords that are easy to remember — and crack. They also use that same password for every account. This is just human nature, but human nature is known for getting people in trouble.
Many people think that having your account hacked due to a bad password simply can't happen to them. Wrong. Password cracking software, even the most crude, can crack the majority of poorly chosen passwords in seconds. Sophisticated cracking software is often available online for free, and many hackers exchange cracking routines often online.
What Makes a Strong Password?
- Your password should be at least 8 characters long, use one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, one number and one non-alphanumeric character. Example: "39F@rever", which meets all of the rules. See? That wasn't bad, and not too hard to remember.
- You've probably heard this before, but it's worth mentioning. Don't use anything that someone could easily guess. Avoid using birthdays, anniversaries, children's or pet's names, Social Security Numbers, or anything like that.
- Do not use a password that can be found in the dictionary. It will be easily cracked. Also, anything that is sequential on your keyboard will be used by password crackers. In other words, "QWERTY123" is another example of a bad password.
Managing Your Passwords
- Use a different password for network account, computer access account, email account, credit card account and banking account. Make sure they are absolutely unique and non-hackable.
- Low security passwords are fine if you have accounts which will not compromise important information. Using these in multiple accounts are also ok.
- Write down all of your passwords on a sheet of paper. Do not store them on your computer. Keep them stored away from your computer.
- Must we say it? Do not store passwords on a public internet site.
- Change your passwords at least every 6 months. Yeah, this is a pain, but trying to recover your identity is a bigger pain.
Other Tips on Creating Strong Passwords
Your username is one half of the keys that an identity thief needs to get into your account. You can further protect your name by picking a username that a thief can easily guess.
- Don't use your own name as your username.
- Just as you don't want to use the same password for multiple sites, don't use the same username for all accounts.
- Sometimes online services want your to use your email address as your username. If this is the case, all identity thief needs is your email address to start a systematic attack on your online accounts. Create a different email address to use as a username for each account especially banking accounts. Yahoo has disposable email accounts which are based on your base email account. All of these email accounts will be directed to your Yahoo base account. You can also set up free email accounts at many sites.
See the list of the top 500 worst passwords of all time. Approximately one out of every nine people uses at least one password in the list on that page, and one out of every 50 people uses one of the top 20 worst passwords. Don't be a statistic.
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