Picking the right password can be your last line of defense in securing your account. But it’s only useful if you pick the right one. Here are 5 mistakes you must not make when selecting your password.
1. Keeping it simple. Simple may be easy to remember, but that means it is also easy to hack. Study after study of hacked accounts has shown that the most common passwords are things like password, 123456, or qwerty. If it’s easy for you to remember, it’s also easy for some else to guess, or more likely an automated program to crack. Make your password a long series of characters that aren’t composed of a word. Mix in capital letters, numbers, and special characters like exclamation points. But don’t save those special characters for the end. Mix it up.
2. Using passwords that relate to your life. Using a password that relates to your life, such as the date of your anniversary, your birthday, your pet, or where you went to school seems like a helpful way to remember things. But it’s also a big help to someone trying to figure out your passwords. A quick scan of your social media profile or the Facebook page of someone who knows you could reveal important dates, the names of your kids, grandkids, or pets, where you went to school, and more. For example, if you’re a member of the Smithfield High School class of 1980 alumni group, a hacker might have a valuable clue towards deciphering your jsmith1980 password. Someone who meets you and knows your a big Michigan fan can do a log working with just your name and your favorite team. So if your password is GoWolverines!, she may be able to break in.
3. Using the same password for multiple accounts. Yes, one password for everything seems easy. But that also makes it super-easy for a crook to get into all of your accounts within minutes. And don’t just change the password slightly for each account either. ChloesMom!BankOfAmerica, ChloesMom!Facebook, ChloesMom!Gmail etc… are sill pretty easy passwords to crack in rapid succession.
4. Not changing your password regularly. How long have you been using your preferred passwords? Months? Years? Decades? Not changing up your passwords can be an expensive mistake. Many companies require employees to change their passwords every four to six weeks. While it seems like a tremendous pain, it really is a great security measure. Even if someone gets their hands on your password, it won’t do them any good if you’ve just changed it. Try to switch your passwords, all of them, out monthly.
5. Not activating two-factor authentication. Many types of accounts offer you the option to enable two-factor authentication. That just means that there’s an additional step when logging in or changing a password. Maybe a security question, or perhaps a code is sent to you via text. That extra step can stop an automated program in its tracks and deter a human who would just as soon move on to something easier.