How Secure Are Your Passwords?
For the millions of people who conduct business online, securing private information with a password is a routine part of the process. Whether you utilize online banking, shop at online stores, or conduct most any other sort of transactions online, your account is protected by a password.
Or at least you think it is.
Most of us make our passwords far too easy to decipher, according to the California company Splashdata, which markets password management software and recently published a list of the top 25 most frequently hacked passwords on the Internet.
Before I pass along Splashdata’s list, you should know that the things we do to help us remember passwords are what makes passwords easy for others to crack.
For example, if you use your phone number as a password, it’s fairly simple for just about anyone to check a directory and come up with your number.
It’s the same thing if you use easy-to-remember passwords like 123456, abc123 or trustno1. Use one of these and odds are a bad guy can easily gain access to stuff you’d rather he wouldn’t see.
And if you think using “password” as your password is clever, you need to think again. It’s on the list and so is a variation where the letter o is changed to a zero so it becomes passw0rd.
Passwords that rely on the layout of your computer keyboard such as QWERT or QAZWSX also don’t fool many hackers. If you’re using these, it’s time for a change.
The bank where I maintain an online account is diligent about making me change my password on a regular basis. It’s a security measure that I appreciate. And while I was accessing my account during a recent visit to California, the fact that I was hooking up from an unfamiliar internet address sent up flags, and I was asked to answer some security questions before I was allowed access to my account. It was a bit of an inconvenience, but I was impressed by the bank looking out for possible intruders accessing my account.
Here are a few guidelines from Splashdata that will help you create more secure passwords:
—Use words with spaces or other characters separating them. For example, "eat cake at 8!" or "car_park_city?" ?
—Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Especially risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking and financial services. Use different passwords for each new website or service you sign up for.
—Having trouble remembering all those different passwords? Try using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites. There are numerous applications available, but choose one with a strong track record of reliability and security like SplashID Safe, which was created by Splashdata, has a 10-year history and over one million users. SplashID Safe has versions available for Windows and Mac as well as smartphones and tablet devices.
I personally use a password manager called 1Password. I like it because it syncs all of my passwords between my computer and my phone. I also use it to store other personal information that I want to keep secure yet convenient to access.
And here’s the list of the top 25 most commonly used internet passwords. The list was compiled from millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. If your password is among those in the list, change it now before someone pays you a visit that you’ll regret: password, 123456, 12345678, qwerty, abc123, monkey, 1234567, letmein, trustno1, dragon, baseball, 111111, iloveyou, master, sunshine, ashley, bailey, passw0rd, shadow, 123123, 654321, superman, qazwsx, michael, football.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you live in a peaceful, rural community nobody is going to bother stealing your personal information. That’s simply not the case. Geography is no longer a factor and someone half way around the world would gladly help himself to your credit card number or bank account, especially if you make it easy. So heed some time-tested advice that was the rule long before the advent of the Internet: It’s better to be safe than sorry.