It’s a new year, and time for some resolutions. If you’re struggling with what changes to make, I think this is a good time to suggest using a strong passwords and a password manager. I blog about this every new year, and people continue to use weak and just plain bad passwords. With more and more news reports about hacks, bad security and new breaches every day, you need to protect yourself.

Every year, SplashData puts out a list of the top 100 worst passwords. Let’s have a quick look at the top 10 worst passwords used last year:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 123456789
  4. 12345678
  5. 12345
  6. 111111
  7. 1234567
  8. sunshine
  9. qwerty
  10. iloveyou

Those are really bad. According to SplashData, the over five million leaked passwords evaluated for the 2018 list were mostly held by users in North America and Western Europe. Passwords leaked from hacks of adult websites were not included in this report.

So what can you do?

Use Stronger Passwords

The best passwords use a combination of letters (both cases), numbers and special characters. I’d recommend using a tool to generate strong passwords. I use RandomKeyGen.com to generate passwords for sites as I use and as well as when I create user accounts. That site will generate all sorts of passwords and keys for you, ranging from shorter passwords that are strong and memorable all the way to crazy “fort knox” passwords, like this:

EI4NH|a!j'E?%gg-

That is a nice, strong password. Yes, it’s long, and hard to remember, but do you want an easy password that’s trivial for some bot network to crack? No, didn’t think so. Wolfram Alpha says that if you had a computer making 100,000 guesses a second, it would guess your password in 1.178×10^19 years. That’s a long time. Like age of the universe long.

Use a Password Manager

1Password

Screenshot of 1Password

I find the challenge is remembering long, complicated passwords. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast. To make life easier, I use an app, 1Password, that syncs my passwords across multiple machines and my phone.

If you asked me for my banking or Facebook password, I couldn’t tell you what it is. They’re both 30 character strings of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special characters. 1Password will also generate passwords if you need. LastPass and KeePass are also apps in this space.

Some of these tools are free or very inexpensive. I think it’s worth it to keep your info just a little more secure than using a password like 123456.

Password Security ImageA door made out of the strongest metal still wouldn’t offer any protection if it was secured with a twist-tie. Likewise, even the most sophisticated online security system can be bypassed in seconds if hackers acquire a user’s password. They’re easy to get when a website is storing passwords in plain text, but that’s a different story.

When people have weak passwords, there’s very little keeping their sensitive information safe. However, when it comes to passwords, many users still choose something that’s easy to remember over something that would be safer. That means hackers and thieves have much less work to do when they try to crack open users’ accounts, resulting in data breaches that put those users and others at risk. Although IT professionals continually stress the importance of choosing a password that is difficult to crack, many users don’t heed the advice.

On the other hand, the most secure passwords have the problem of being extremely difficult for people to remember easily. That’s why so many people use formulas for creating their passwords that make them easier to figure out for hackers. Some people believe that substituting numbers for letters in common words is enough to make a password difficult to guess. Yet substituting a zero for the “o” in “hello” is obvious enough to hackers that it’s practically the same as spelling the word the correct way.

Just this week, in fact, the man that told people to replace numbers for letters said this advice was wrong.

Personally, I use a password manager to handle all my passwords. I use 1Password, but LastPass and KeePass are also good tools. All I need to remember is a strong master password, and 1Password does the rest of the work in keeping my super strong passwords safe.

Having strong passwords for each of the important websites and Internet portals you use regularly is essential today. Use the following checklist when creating a password to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes that lead to weak passwords. This guide also tells you what steps you need to take if you believe your password may have been compromised to protect yourself and your data. A door is only as strong as the lock on it, and your Internet security is only as strong as the password you use to access it.


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