Password Pick-Ups: Keeping Secure in the Digital World

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By Brittany McNicholas

Maybe it’s just us, but sometimes keeping up with managing passwords these days is a very real struggle. And that’s just in regards to personal accounts…the problem only gets worse when you’re a business owner. It’s hard enough keeping tabs on all those platforms and accounts—E-mail, Twitter, LinkedIn, payroll systems, and more!—let alone remembering how to access each of those. There’s also the question of keeping things safe and secure from hackers and internet never-do-wells. So how can we manage our passwords to keep our business accounts accessible to us, but keep out online hoodlums as well?

Keep it Cryptic

Why isn’t “beef stew” a good password? Because it isn’t stroganoff!

We’re often tempted to use something simple and memorable—say, our favorite dinner like beef stew, or the name of a beloved pet—in order to keep from forgetting our log-in information. However, this technique will leave you vulnerable to anyone looking to access your information. If it’s easy and straightforward to you, it will be to any would-be hackers as well. Even worse, if you use the same accessible password across all of your accounts, if someone gets into one platform they can access all of them. The more unguessable you can make your password, the better. A random assortment of numbers, letters, and symbols are the best option.

After you’ve changed all your passwords to a jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols, and made a new password for all of your accounts, what comes next? How do you keep track of everything?

Outsource it

The absolute last thing you want to do is keep a document or spreadsheet on your computer to keep track of all your passwords. This makes them vulnerable to any hackers. To avoid that problem, perhaps you’ve written them down on a sticky-note or in a notebook—you can’t hack paper, right? Maybe not, but they can still be found by prying eyes who may do some very real damage on your accounts. So how to keep track of all those passwords?

Easy—consider using a password management service. There are a variety of them, each offering different versions of a similar service. There are even many that are completely free for you to use, and the majority of them work across all devices from phones to laptops. These password management services will generate a single “master password” that you use to access your various accounts and store your originals—keeping everything locked down and secure.

Make it Personal

But maybe you’re wary about giving up control to a password management service. Or maybe you worry that the generated master password will be, in itself, too difficult for you to remember without writing down and making a record of it somewhere. But don’t worry—in the world of passwords, you can have your stroganoff and eat it, too. Follow these steps to build your own cryptic, personalized password system:

* What you use this website for: Begin with what is important to you on this specific platform. Is it to make a purchase? Is it to deal with medical issues? Whatever the purpose, choose one syllable from the word. Let’s say you choose BUY.

* Personal touch: Now is the time to bring in your personal details. Let’s say your childhood cat’s name was Maggie, and you met your significant other in 2008.

* Break it up: Split up the syllables. For instance, if a website uses no security requirements, you’ll be golden with Maggie2008. To meet security, try MagBUYgie2008. When you need to update, keep it consistent: MagBUY!gie2008, MagBUY!*gie2008, and so on.

It’s the wild, wild west on the frontier of password management. When it comes to keeping your accounts secure, it’s good to evaluate your current practices to look for places with room to improve. From using a password management site to developing your own code, there really is no wrong answer. Take steps today for a more secure tomorrow.