IT’S TEMPTING TO use the same password for all of your online accounts, but doing so puts every account in jeopardy if one of them gets hacked. In view of some recent massive security breaches, now’s a good time to update your passwords and make sure that each is unique.
A few great password management programs like KeePass will store all of your passwords in one encrypted database and let you access them with one master password, so you can carry every password you’ll ever need on one thumb drive. A multiplatform password manager with browser support, like LastPass is even simpler because it automatically syncs between different PCs and browsers, giving you access to your encrypted database from any device, though you do sacrifice the security of keeping your password list confined to a single hard drive.
One Password to Rule Them All
IT’S EASY TO create strong, unique passwords by following a few simple rules. First, create a password “base” with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and maybe a symbol or two. Just choose a phrase that’s easy to remember. I’m going to use one of my favorite dishes, chicken adobo, as our example.
Make sure your passphrase is at least eight characters and avoid obviously memorable topics like proper names, birthdays, and hometowns. Avoid picking a single word and changing some of its characters to symbols; hacker tools can overcome that trick. Go for a passphrase—multiple words strung together—rather than a password, to defeat hackers working to crack your password by trying every word in the dictionary.
After mashing our passphrase into a single string (chickenadobo), we sprinkle in a few obvious capital letters (ChickenAdobo). Next, let’s pepper our password base with a few random characters (Ch!cken@dob0).
Now that we have a base password, we can use variants to unlock our accounts on any Website. To create the strongest password possible, we’ll establish a simple naming pattern for generating a unique password at every Website we visit.
For example, I could use the first and fourth letter of the Website’s domain name in the middle of my passphrase, capitalizing the former while leaving the latter lowercase. Then my Facebook.com account’s password would be Ch!ckenFe@dob0, and my about.me account’s password would be Ch!ckenAu@dob0.
Make up a similar pattern, and you’ll have a unique password for every Website you visit—one that’s easy to remember but nearly impossible to crack.
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