Take Your Security Seriously!

– Posted in: Passwords, Privacy, Security

In this day and age where hackers seem to be a dime a dozen and account information is lifted from various companies that we think should have great security measures, companies like Sony or Epsilon, do you consider how you can keep your own data safe? I’ll admit, I need to follow some of my own advice, and follow it more frequently.

How often do you change your passwords? Yes, changing passwords is a massive pain, especially if you have as many as I do. You have dozens, you want them all to be strong, and you want to remember them all. Finding passwords for all your accounts, then changing them frequently really becomes a task. You have to think of something that you can remember easily but you don’t want it easily guessed. You do not want to pick your pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name, your child’s name, or a special date. These are all “public information.” That means that your friends, your spouse, your significant other, all know this information. You should NEVER use your social security number or your driver’s license number either! Again, these numbers are to remain private and NEVER be a consideration for a password.

Here are some more do’s and don’ts to creating a password.

Do’s 

  • Do use at least eight characters in your password. Remember, the more the merrier.
  • Do use a good variety of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Do avoid consecutive keyboard combinations — such as qwerty or asdfg.
  • Do try to make a password that is hard to guess, but easy to remember. See “Make Them Memorable” for tips on how to do this.
Don’ts 

  • Don’t use personal information such as your name, age, birth date, child’s name, pet’s name, or favorite color/song, etc.
  • Don’t use dictionary words, slang terms, common misspellings, or words spelled backward.
  • Don’t use more than three consecutive characters of one type—5386 is not okay, 238# is okay.

 

Information used from McAfee

So, how do I pick passwords? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are some ideas that I would like to share with you.

Use phrases

I read many books and watch many movies. Many whimsical quotes or comments are made in books and movies. Some are very popular or cliché and others are just something a character said that is meaningful to you. Take that quote or comment from your story and summarize it into a word or phrase that is eight or MORE characters long. The more characters the better.

Example:

“To be or not to be?” This quote comes from a book written by William Shakespeare. It can be condensed into a nice memorable password like this, 2B-or-Not_2b? I’ve used numbers, capital and lower case letters, and symbols. This is a very strong password.

Be careful that you change your password/passphrase often and don’t use the same story every time. Also, break out of your usual reads and movies. Don’t stay within one genre. If you do, then any one can figure out your “dictionary.” Do NOT create your own personal dictionary. What I mean by this is, don’t use only one book, or one movie, or one author, etc. I used to do this. I used to use Bible addresses to my favorite scriptures. It was just a matter of time where someone figured out what I was using to create my passwords. Soon, my account was indeed hacked. Change your sources.

Use your own memories

Remember back over the years to a favorite time, or perhaps a more hurtful time. Personally, I don’t like to dwell on negative memories, but the moment can inspire a great password.

Example:

Perhaps a loved one passed away, ):d4d-D13d here I’ve used a sad face (For the blog, I’ve used a backwards happy face. Otherwise you’d see and emoticon in this post.) at the beginning, capital and lower case letters, and numbers. It says, ):dad-Died.

State your opinion

Perhaps you have a strong opinion of someone or something. Mix it up and create a word or phrase that is memorable to you.

Example:

Perhaps you have a strong opinion of politics. 0b4ma=Jack4s$ Here, I remind myself of my opinion of my current president. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if you are one who doesn’t really speak out your opinions, this can be a good way to voice your opinions.

McAffee, a well-known company for antivirus software, makes some other suggestions. For instance, if you’re a visual person, use your keyboard to make a visual pattern for your password.

Example:

On your keyboard make your first character from the number line, then from each line of letters below the numbers pick a letter, either lower case or capital, and chose one key per line in your pattern. Try this password, for example: %tGbhU8iK<Ip- If you follow these characters and numbers on your keyboard, you will see the letter ‘W’ form.

We’ve always heard in the past that we should NEVER EVER write our passwords down. However, in our busy schedules, our brains become sieves and we never seem to remember our passwords. So, we chose to use one really awesome password for all our accounts. That is a really, bad idea too. Admittedly, I’ve done this before because I do forget, but this is a very bad habit that you need to break! Instead, write all your passwords down. It’s really OK! However, do not store them near your computer. Put the paper in a safe place and make sure you do not label the page ‘Passwords.’ In fact, use this list for other things too, like phone numbers. Most smart phones, like iPhone, have vaults that you can store files, photos, and videos. One really, great app for the iPhone is Stash Pro. This app will store photos, videos, and files. This allows you to create a file on your phone and store it in your vault program.

McAfee has announced a new password analyzer that can give you helpful tips about your password choices. Check it out here McAfee Password Analyzer.

Now, I started this post by mentioning other companies and their privacy issues with your information. My best advice is simple. Never trust anyone with your information.

Ultimately, you are the one who suffers when you trust someone with your information. If I purchase from particular companies on a regular basis, I tend to allow them to keep my name, address, and email address. This is all public information. However, many companies ask you to store your credit card numbers. NEVER allow them to save or store your credit card number! Always re-enter the number whenever you make a purchase.

Another fact, most credit card companies, like my favorite Citicards, allows you to create “Virtual” credit card numbers. Their purpose is for situations like this, where you buy from a vendor on a regular basis. Create a virtual number for each vendor. Use it whenever you place your order. I like this option because you can never be certain of what information your vendor saves. If their database is compromised, you only need to have that number removed from your account. It’s simple. You don’t have to wait for your credit card company to send you new cards.

Now, something we all NEVER think about when creating our passwords. Most web sites have you create some “secret” questions. Well, have you ever seen the list they give you of secret questions? It’s laughable.

  • What’s your mother’s maiden name? <–Duh! Public!
  • What’s your father’s middle name? <–Duh! Public!
  • What’s your first pet’s name? <–Duh! Public!

I love those web sites that allow you to create your own secret question. Now that’s a better angle. However, not all companies’ web sites offer this as an option. Therefore, you’re left with their choices.

Here’s what I do. Pick any question that you find easiest to remember. Then choose someone else in your life, or a character from a story you like, and make your secret answer that person’s fact.

Example:

  • Secret Question: What is your first pet’s name?
  • Secret Answer: Dean: (In the Sookie Stackhouse series of books, (aka True Blood) written by Charlaine Harris, Sookie picks up a stray dog and names it Dean. Later we find out that Dean is really Sam who is a shapeshifter.)

Now, I don’t have a pet named Dean and never have, but it was a memorable point in the series.

Use your imagination! When you’re asked what your mother’s maiden name is, use another name that is not connected to you on a first level. If creativity baffles you, then choose your father’s, mother’s maiden name. Alternatively, choose your spouse’s mother’s, mother’s maiden name. Never chose something directly connected to you.

Last important point…promise! Change your Secret Answers frequently too! Yes! If you’re password gets hacked, what’s to keep a would be hacker to do it again? Change your secret answers using a new source for your new answer! If you can’t remember your secret answer, write it down too. Like your passwords, store it in a safe place!

Never go lax when it comes to your privacy! Teach your children the same thing! Safety should be first in everything!

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