Your identity could be in danger if you use “password,” “123456,” or “football” as one of your passwords. Passwords are increasingly critical as more and more of our lives are connected to the Internet. Let’s go over some tips for choosing better passwords and maintaining them.

The passwords above are some of the most common passwords used and they’re simple to hack. A criminal can easily figure out the email you use to log in to an account and then manually enter a common password.

The scary thing is it’s not just one bad person sitting at a keyboard guessing your passwords. It’s not even 100 people guessing them. It’s hundreds or thousands of computers constantly guessing your passwords every second.

This may not be a big deal if it’s your social media account or some news site. But, imagine the damage done if somebody gets into your bank account, retirement account, or other important online resource.

Tips for Creating Better Passwords

The two most important tips are likely going to be the hardest to follow: don’t use common words and don’t use the same passwords on many sites. A dictionary word is just too easy to guess. If a baddie gets your password by hacking one site, your other accounts with that same password become compromised.

Avoid common words or slang as your password. Also, avoid common keyboard patterns like “qwerty” or “asdfg.” The best passwords are at least 8 characters and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like !&%.

A password like “h71[{!0~I3KI1>V” is quite secure but can be tough to remember. This is especially true if you’re creating a new one for every single site.

One method is to create a mnemonic device to remember your passwords. Your bank password could use a dollar sign and emoticons based on how you feel about it. Something like “RoLL!nG$inIT;)” is secure and can be remembered without too much hassle.

Finally, be sure to change your passwords often, at least once every 90 days. Don’t use previous passwords for your new ones, either. If you forget, just set a reminder in your online calendar.
Ultimately, I do recommend using a password management service. This allows you to only create and remember a single, secure password and the password manager will auto-generate secure passwords for every site you have an account on. The best password management services have easy-to-use browser extensions and even work with your phone apps.

Keeping Your Passwords Secure

Even with a password manager and secure passwords, you should take steps to ensure your accounts remain safe and secure.

Some easy ways to do this are to turn on two-factor authentication for your important services. Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security by requiring an extra verification besides a user name and password. Typically, this will be a secure code sent to you as a text message that you’ll have to enter after inputting your password.

I’m not going to lie: two-factor authentication can be a bit of a pain. This is especially true in situations where you don’t have cell service (like on a plane). But the added security benefits are worth it. Think about it: if it’s a minor pain for you and you already know your password and have your phone, it’s going to be a monumental pain for hackers.

You should also be wary of social engineering. This is when a baddie gets your information through some form of manipulation. It could be an elaborate phone scam, a key-logging program, or something as simple as somebody watching you while you put

To put yourself in a better position versus social engineering, ensure you always log off of accounts when using a shared computer. If you can, try to avoid logging into important services when on open WiFi. And try to make sure nobody is watching you when you’re entering your passwords.

Stay Protected

Whether it’s through biometrics or some other technology, I truly hope that we won’t need passwords in the future. Until then, following the tips and best practices in this article will help keep your accounts, your passwords, and your identity safe.

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Marin Perez

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Marin Perez

Marin is passionate about how technology is changing the way we work and play. He's swimming in the startup waters now but formerly blogged about iPhones, Android and anything else that caught his attention for publications like CNET, InformationWeek and IntoMobile. When not working on his craft, Marin plans trips, practices yoga and watches too much professional basketball.

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