You must change your passwords like you must change your bed sheets. This is not up to negotiation, thanks to the influx of viruses, malware, phishing sites and key loggers.
Changing a password means having a new password for all of your accounts rather than using the same password. Imagine what would happen if someone got ahold of your one password—they could get into all of your accounts.
The biggest problem with passwords as far as how easy they can be cracked, is when they have fewer than eight characters, and are an actual word that can be found in a dictionary, or are a known proper name. Or, the password is all the same type of character, such as all numbers. There’s no randomness, no complexity. These features make a hacker’s job easy.
How to change Passwords
- Each site/account should have a different password, no matter how many.
- Passwords should have at least eight characters and be a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols that can’t be found in a dictionary.
- Use a password program such as secure password software.
- Make sure that any password software you use can be applied on all devices.
- A password manager will store tons of crazy and long passwords and uses a master password.
- Consider a second layer of protection such as Yubikey. Plug your flashdrive in; touch the button and it generates a one-time password for the day. Or enter a static password that’s stored on the second slot.
- Have a printout of the Yubikey password in case the Yubikey gets lost or stolen.
- An alternative to a password software program, though not as secure, is to keep passwords in an encrypted Excel, Word or PDF file. Give the file a name that would be of no interest to a hacker.
- The “key” method. Begin with a key of 5-6 characters (a capital letter, number and symbols). For example, “apple” can be @pp1E.
- Next add the year (2014) minus 5 at the end: @pp1E9.
- Every new year, change the password; next year it would be @pp1E10. To make this process even more secure, change the password more frequently, even every month. To make this less daunting, use a key again, like the first two letters of every new month can be inserted somewhere, so for March, it would be @pp1E9MA.
- To create additional passwords based on this plan, add two letters to the end that pertain to the site or account. For instance, @pp1E9fb is the Facebook password.
- Passwords become vulnerable when the internet is accessed over Wi-Fis (home, office, coffee shop, hotel, airport). Unsecured, unprotected and unencrypted connections can enable thieves to steal your personal information including usernames and passwords.
Thus, for wireless connections (which are often not secure), use a VPN—virtual private network software that ensures that anything you do online (downloads, shopping, filling out forms) is secured through https. Hotspot Shield VPN is an example and has a free version, available for Android, iPhone, PC and Mac.
- Set your internet browsers to clear all cookies and all passwords when you exit. This way, passwords are never retained longer than for the day that you’ve used them.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.