With recent news that hackers captured 2 million passwords from Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and thousands over other sites, we wanted to provide a few tips on the best ways to create a strong password. Passwords need to be totally unique and should be different for every online account you have (or at the very least, make sure your passwords for social media and other non-financial websites are different from your passwords at financial websites).
• It must be at least 8 characters long.
• It should contain a variation of capitalization and lowercase letters.
• It needs to contain at least one special characters such as !@#$%^&*, etc.
• It should not have common words or words associated with you like password, 123, your birth date, your login name, your name, etc.
You’re probably thinking, “If I follow all of those rules, how will I ever remember my password?” Here are a few tips that might help:
• Think of it as a passPHRASE versus a password.
• Think of a date, specific event, or anything unique and meaningful to you.
• Replace some of the letters in your words or phrase with symbols, numbers or slight misspellings. Ex: If you wanted your password to relate to a quote such as I Love Lamp, you could make your password Ey3L0v3L@mp.
• Relate your password to a hobby or sport that you enjoy. Maybe tie it to a movie quote or famous speech or song.
A few additional things to remember:
• Never share your password with anyone!
• If you must write it down in order to remember, do not label it as a password.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, WordPress, and Google+, words that were mere gibberish to most just a few years ago, have now become staples in the daily lives in much of today’s youth and young adult populace. With the social networking phenomenon immersing itself into nearly every facet of modern society, more personal information is at risk for identity thieves, hackers, and spammers to steal, sell, and tamper with. However, with the right habits, the danger of cyber criminals can be kept to a minimum.
The first step is password strength, which most social network sites will help users with as they create it. A strong password contains capital letters, numbers, and no guessable personal information (date of birth, nickname, etc.) Also, it’s recommended that different passwords be used for each account, and that passwords be changed at least semiannually.
Of course, hackers have other means of obtaining access to social media login information. One of the most popular of which is known as “phishing,” which is when a cyber criminal creates a phony social networking account and lists themselves as a coworker of another legitimate user, and requests information (email address, password, etc.) on behalf of a false “company” agenda. Two easy steps that can foil phishing efforts are not putting any business information on a social media account (no job title/place of employment), and only communicating with coworkers via secured company networks.
Users can also view their social accounts in a more secure setting by enabling encryption tools. Checking “preferences” or “security settings” on various social media websites should allow users to change their web addresses from “http” to “https,” indicating a secured browser. Also, disabling password memorization for all websites that offer such a service is an easy and effective precautionary measure.
Another small but significant technique that can minimize cyber risk is entering web addresses directly into the browser or using personal bookmarks rather than using a search engine. Search engines sell information obtained by users’ search queries to marketing firms, potentially making this information vulnerable to hacks. Typing your bank’s website rather than searching for it is an easy way to keep sensitive information as secure as possible.
Finally, keeping updated with new technological threats is a good way to stay informed on the best security measures. Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a study using Facebook and an “off-the-shelf” facial recognition software where pictures taken secretly of test subjects were easily linked to their Facebook profiles. So if college students using readily available technology can find out personal information so simply, it’s easy to imagine the dangerous tools serious cyber criminals have at their disposal. Reading social media security blogs and articles is a reliable method to obtain new techniques to keep personal information safe and secure. Of course, the easiest way to keep safe is to post as little possible. It can’t be stolen if it’s not available.