Staying safe online … with Passwords.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month! Each week we will be posting tips on staying safe online. This week we’re going to be talking about creating safe passwords.

Passwords are the key to keeping your information safe online. Without a strong password your email, Facebook and even bank accounts could be vulnerable.

There are a few key things to remember when dealing with passwords.

Passwords should be at least 8 characters long – the longer the better. It should also have a capital letter, symbol or number. Most websites require that passwords meet all of these requirements, but even if the website does not require it, you should keep in the habit of using passwords that include all of these elements.

Though it is tempting to make passwords easy to remember by using something simple like your name, children’s name or birthday, these can make it easy to guess your password. Using a sequence of numbers like “12345” or “abc123” or even just using the word password can also make it very easy to guess a password. SplashData.com releases the worst passwords used every year. Below is a graphic showing the worst passwords of 2013. These passwords are considered the worst because they are so easy to guess.

image via splashdata.com
So what should you use for a password? Try something that is easy for you to remember but hard to guess. Or if you must use something like your children’s name add a capital letter or symbol. Some security experts recommend using a common word that is misspelled or even an inside joke that only makes sense to you. 
If you do need to keep a written log of your passwords, you can! With almost every website seeming to have different rules for passwords it can be difficult to keep up with all of them. Writing the passwords is a great way to remember the passwords. The important thing is to keep that record out of sight. Make sure the log of passwords cannot be seen from the computer – keep it in a drawer or file! This will keep visitors from seeing your passwords. 
Sometimes even the most random password cannot keep your account safe. My Facebook page was ‘hacked’ once, even though I used a non-English word that wasn’t even spelled correctly! It is important to monitor your accounts for unusual activities. This includes keeping an eye on bank and credit card statements and looking in your ‘Sent Mail’ folder every once in a while to make sure you recognize all the emails that weren’t sent recently. If you find something unusual, the first step is to change your password immediately. Most email and social media services monitor your account for you and force you to change your password if anything unusual occurs. However, it is always a good idea to be aware of what is happening on your account. 

For a fun way of remembering the rules to a secure password, online security company Thycotic offers this: