Passwords … How to Stay Secure.

A common question I often get asked is how can I remember what all my password are, how do I keep my account secure. So I thought I would suggest some ways to keep all your online accounts safe and how to choose a password.

In an ideal world we would have a different password for each of our online accounts which should really be secure with a combination of characters, numbers and symbols which would be difficult to guess. However how do we remember all these different passwords? One way of doing this would be to use a password manager. You would have one master password which would be fairly complicated to guess.

Two common free password managers are called LastPass and KeePass. There are many other password managers, but please read the reviews or ask advice before using any as there are some others that are not so good and could potentially be a security threat.

You can also get Password Managers for your mobile devices so you always have your passwords on the move. The premium version of LastPass, like many others, sync your passwords across multiple devices so, if you update a password on your mobile, it will also update your desktop software with the same password.

Many password managers will insert the password directly into internet login form after you have typed in you master password.

Choosing a Master Password

As your Master Password, you could use a phrase, some lyrics from a song or use a few words which means something to you. I would suggest you change some of the letters to numbers or symbols. For example you could use the line “There’s Rabbit and Piglet and there’s Owl” from Winnie the Pooh. Many password validators do not allow spaces so I would remove the spaces -“There’sRabbitandPigletandthere’sOwl”. You then may decide to replace the letter e with the number 3 and the letter a with the symbol @ and end the password with an exclamation mark. Therefore you master password would be “Th3r3’sR@bbit@ndPigl3t@ndth3r3’sOwl!”. Obviously the password doesn’t need to be as long as this. However if you are typing the password in everyday you would soon get very fast at typing it and all your account passwords would be in safe hands.

Other password options

– A common mistake people make when using passwords is using the same password for all accounts. The main problem with this is that, if your username and password are found by criminals, the chances are that they would have your email address, as many usernames require an email address. Therefore they would know who provides your emails. If you use the same password for your emails they would be able to log into your emails, find out what accounts you have, which companies you have dealings with – utilities, shopping etc. and log into all your accounts. They may even be able to get access to your security information codes and aide memoires, such as mother’s maiden name. Once a criminal has access to your account you could find it very difficult to regain control of your emails and other online accounts.

A way round this would be to use a standard password and come up with your own secret coding for each company. So, if my normal password was “Computer” and I was logging into my online Sainsbury’s account, I may choose to add the last 3 letters of the company’s name so my password would now be ComputerSai which would make it slightly harder to guess as each account password would be different. You could make it harder again, this time using the first 3 characters of the company’s name but moving each letter on a certain number of letters through the alphabet. For this example I have moved the letters on 5 characters so my password would now be “ComputerXfn”. By taking these precautions, if a criminal did discover my original password, it would make it more difficult to guess the passwords for the rest of my accounts. As a further precaution I would add numbers and symbols to these passwords such as “56Computer!Xfn”

The numbers could have a special significance to you such as house number, first and last digit of your date of birth, or a family birthday etc. I would suggest you do not choose your age as that has a habit of changing every year!

I hope this helps you keep safe online. There are many other ways to help you stay safe online which I will discuss in other blogs but keeping your password secure is the first step towards ensuring security for your personal data and accounts.

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