Okay, let’s take a quick poll—everybody whose email password is password, please raise your hand…
…if you raised your hand, please go directly to your computer and change your email password now (do not pass GO, do not collect $200, etc., etc.). The rest of you might want to wipe those smug grins off your faces, because your passwords are probably not much more secure! Read on for the Top 3 reasons why your password is probably not good enough.
- It’s too short! Bigger is better here—the longer your passwords can be, the harder they are to guess or crack through automated attacks.
- It’s too obvious! People like to make up passwords they can remember, but if your password is repetitive, uses common words or number sequences, or is biographical in nature (your birthday, your pet’s name, your street address number), it can be figured out pretty quickly, either through an automated attack, or by someone who knows your details.
- It’s a single point of failure! Using a single password for multiple sites is a no-no—if you use the same password for Facebook that you use for your online banking account, you might as well leave your ATM card out on the street.
Each of the above points can be dealt with—the trick is to do so in a way that doesn’t make your life all about managing your passwords.
One simple way to make your passwords long enough, and really hard to guess, is to take some common words at random and make a phrase out of them—something like “quick pancake window bumper”. Believe it or not, this phrase is really hard to crack for humans and computers—it’s just too random and too long to be guessed in a reasonable amount of time. And the upside? It’s so weird that you will have no problem remembering it!
Now, how to tackle the problem of keeping track of multiple passwords? We’ll defer to renowned security expert Bruce Schneier, who wrote in 2005:
“Simply, people…are much more secure if they choose a password too complicated to remember and then write it down. We’re all good at securing small pieces of paper. I recommend that people write their passwords down on a small piece of paper, and keep it with their other valuable small pieces of paper: In their wallet.”
In a perfect world, nobody would need passwords because everybody would respect the privacy of others. In the real world, people are just itching to hack into your email and steal your credit card info. So play it safe and make sure your passwords are long, hard to guess and kept safe.
And keep an eye out for speedy breakfast goods, while you’re at it!