As you surf the Web, you've undoubtedly noticed that many websites require a username and password to access services like e-mail, communicate with friends and family, read premium content and to shop online.
Your password is your prime defense against unauthorized access to your personal account. Do you want someone reading your e-mail, communicating with your loved ones, or reviewing your banking records without your permission? Of course not! Because of that, it's important to carefully choose your passwords. It is also just as critical to safeguard them.
Getting a Password
The top three passwords are 123456, password, and 12345. Passwords like these are easily guessed, and are not secure.
You will need a password for most websites that require registration. Some sites will send you a password following the completion of an online form. With other websites you will select your own password. With most sites – social networks, message boards, search engines, online stores, email services, etc. – there is no fee for registration. Almost any website that allows free registration will require you to have a valid email address, and will either assign you a password, or allow you to select your own password, after you verify the validity of your email address.
You should be aware that there are also plenty of sites that also may ask you to pay a fee to register, especially sites that contain proprietary research, protect secure financial information, or stream video and audio content they consider to be “premium”.
Selecting a Secure Password
A website's security system can only confirm that a password is legitimate, not whether you're authorized to use the password. Make it tough for potential snoops to hack your password by following the following guidelines:
1. Don't use passwords that consist of easily obtainable personal information, such as your address, phone number or date of birth. Also avoid using common words found in a dictionary. If you must use data like this in a password to be able to remember it, at least make the common word or personal information complex with different number, letter and character combinations in place of all letters.
2. Devise passwords of at least six characters and consisting of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, for example: 2le@rN. Depending on the level of security particular websites require, the character length or complexity of your required password may be greater than six characters, but consider that a general guideline.
3. Use a different password for every website where you register. This sounds great in theory. However, the reality is that having multiple passwords can become very confusing. How can you realistically remember which password is for which site? Instead, it probably makes more sense from a practical perspective to have unique variations of one password – some with capital letters in the middle, or numbers and other characters in the middle – to fill in for traditional letters. With one six word password that has a different letter or number in each place, it’s possible to create as many as 1.98 billion different password combinations. Even the most accomplished hacker would have a hard time coming up with the right combination given those odds!
4. Create a password that is easy to remember. If you need to record your passwords, store them in a secure location. Using a piece of paper and placing it in the top drawer of your desk is tempting fate. Even worse is a Post-It note on your monitor!
5. Never disclose your password to someone you don’t trust. If you are getting customer support from an online service provider, they should never require you to give them your password for any reason. In the event they ask you for your password, respectfully decline and instead simply ask them to reset your password. If they are unable to do that, you may be dealing with an individual looking to hack into your account for any variety of reasons.
6. Change your passwords frequently. This is particularly important to do with sensitive accounts, such as financial services. In today’s Internet world of major data breaches and identity theft online, many financial service providers will make their users periodically change their passwords – even if the user doesn’t feel it is necessary. While we recommend you change your most sensitive passwords every two months or so, many sites that protect sensitive data like credit card and banking information request a new password every 90 days or so. Many of them also prevent you from using the same password twice.
Learn The Net’s Preferred Password Generation Tools
The best passwords are at least six characters long and include upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Norton Identity Safe Password Generator – Norton’s Password Generator is a companion tool to its free software for securely managing your passwords – Identity Safe. With this free online tool, you can create secure passwords by checking some boxes to match the criteria of the site you need a password for, and then clicking “Generate Password(s)”.
- Random.org – Random.org generates its passwords using what it considers to be truly “random” results by using atmospheric noise. In opposition to algorithm-based random numbers, Random.org believes its method to be more random and therefore, more secure. The online form it uses to generate passwords submits your information securely, also, for even greater protection of your secure password options.