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Recent Events Mean You Have to Change Your Password

Tim Parker

Have you heard of the Heartbleed bug? You can read Benzinga’s coverage of it here, but all the techno-geek speak means one very important thing for you:

Your data is at risk. Not just because of the Heartbleed bug; your data is at risk all of the time.

In an increasingly technical world where sophisticated systems are now in place to hijack your valuable information, we all still rely on the archaic password to keep us safe.

The only way that a password stands a fighting chance of keeping you safe is if you’re constantly changing it and using best practices when constructing a new password. Here are some quick tips.

Related: A New Computer Bug May Leave Your Information at Risk

Basic Rules

  • Never use the same password twice
  • Don’t use whole words
  • Never use a password that is related to you somehow. (kids’ names, your name, city where you live, phone number, social security number, etc.)
  • Use at least eight characters. The more characters the better but make sure you can remember it.
  • Use a random mixture of letters—upper and lowercase—numbers, spaces, symbols, and punctuation.

Avoid these Practices:

  • Converting a letter to a number. (Converting an “e” to a “3” for example.)
  • Use a line of characters on your keyboard. (qwerty)
  • Remove vowels from a word. (sprng)
  • Reverse the word. (“tropical” becomes “laciport”)
  • Double a word. (bananabanana)
  • Add a number to a word. (hurricane1)

How to Keep Your Password Secure:

  • Change it monthly
  • Use an online password generator (random.org/passwords)
  • If you must use something familiar to you (not a good idea) put a symbol in between two words. (benzinga#rocks)
  • Use the first letter of each word in a sentence (“Look on the bright side, Monday is only four days from Friday” becomes, “LotbsMio4dFF”)
  • Never store your password(s) on your computer
  • Don’t save your password when your computer asks.
  • Don’t enter your password in the presence of others.
  • If you have to enter your password in a public environment, change it as soon as possible.

A Big Giant Pain? Yes!

If these rules sound like a giant pain in your life, they are but what’s more of a pain is when all of your data is stolen and you spend months cleaning up the mess. But take heart; there are programs for managing your passwords. Check out this review of the more popular managers on the market.

Even the best password wouldn’t have kept you safe from the Heartbleed bug, but you’re not likely to fall victim to exploits like Heartbleed. You’re more likely to suffer the effects of much lower tech attacks that take advantage of people who have a password like “12345678.”

And by the way, read this article and see if your password is one of the 25 most common. If it is, you might as well print it on a t-shirt. It’s just about that easy for to get your information.

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