Your online passwords are a line of defense against hackers looking to gain sensitive information from your accounts. These passwords are the guardians of all of your valued banking information, your social media accounts and, if you’re a celebrity, naughty bit photos you sent to your flavor of the week. You certainly don’t want anyone getting ahold of these valuable accounts, so it’s important you come up with a password that is virtually unbreakable. We’ve outlined some tips on what to do to create a strong password and what to avoid doing at all costs. Do avoid being basic. Would you believe one of the most common passwords used in 2014 was simply “password,” edged out only slightly by the classic “123456.” I suppose that’s a good one for people who don’t know how to spell or count, but that still leaves you vulnerable to most people who aren’t in kindergarten. You’ll have to amp up your game if you want to fool anyone. Repetitive or sequential numbers and letters are some of the easiest passwords to hack. The same goes for generic words and commonly used phrases. “Carpe Diem” might make for a great life motto, but if you use it for a password, hackers are going to be seizing your credit card number and your financial assets. Don’t use names of your family or pets. It’s great you love your dog “Buttons,” but showing your love by using his name to protect your email isn’t the wisest decision. Sometimes hackers are people from your own life, so using the name of something or someone important to you would be an easy guess. Avoid names altogether when coming up with your password. Do use a passphrase. The average time it takes for a hacker to crack a 10-letter password is one week. Instead, try using a passphrase like many sites are now requiring. Longer phrases make it more difficult and time-consuming for someone to break in. The more convoluted and meaningless your passphrase is, the better. Passwords less than ten characters long are considered weak and among the easiest to guess, whereas ones 15 characters or longer are generally more secure. Don’t use dictionary words. Dictionaries are wonderful things full of words most people have never heard of. It’s easy to open one up and choose a random, confusing word you think no one would guess. The problem is everyone else has access to a dictionary and can use the same method to guess your password you used to create it. In fact, most password cracking tools are already equipped with knowledge of most of the words found in the dictionary. Do mix it up. Add some random numbers and characters in your password to make it harder to tugess. If you feel inclined to place them in the middle of a word, like “ka3th&en46o*th$eis94m,” even better. Good luck guessing that one, hackers. You might want to write it down and store it in a secure place if you choose to go that route. Don’t be redundant. Repetition reduces the amount of times a hacker has to spend guessing your password. The less you repeat a number or letter the better. For example, “5001” or “voodoo” aren’t all that difficult to guess for even the novice hacker. Other Thoughts to Keep in Mind If you don’t trust yourself to remember your password, there are plenty of apps available to help you out. Most of these apps act as vaults for you to store them in. You can even use a password generator, but it’s probably best to come up with something unique on your own. Remember to change your password every few months. The longer you use the same one, the more time you’re giving a hacker to figure it out. Many sites are starting to require you change your password every few months. Your password is often the only thing keeping most of your online information out of the hands of online thieves. You should always put extra effort into creating something strong enough to keep any unwanted users out. Keep these tips in mind when creating your next password and you should be a little more secure online. Photo Credit: StartUp Stock Photos Whether you primarily use the Internet for work or for pleasure, you’re constantly bombarded by demands to create usernames and passwords. Getting creative with them often means creating logins you’ll never remember, yet easy passwords make you especially vulnerable to cyber bad guys. A password manager solves those problems and simplifies your life. Rather than remembering several passwords, you just remember the one master password. In addition to keeping your login information safe, password managers take care of filling out those pesky forms, auto generate passwords, and let you store other critical data, such as health insurance cards and bank account information. Two of the most trusted password solutions are LastPass and Dashlane. We’ll introduce you to both, and explore their unique benefits. LastPass LastPass uses 256-bit AES encryption, and offers the option of two-factor authentication via Google Authenticator for a second layer of defense against cybercriminals. LastPass uses a “Vault” format. Click on the Vault and you’ll be taken to a URL where you login. As you browse the Web, you can save the login data you enter on each page and the next time you visit the site the data will auto fill. Open the vault and you can edit, delete and organize the data stored inside.  LastPass syncs automatically, so you always get current data on every device. Conveniently, LastPass ties to your browser so you’ll have no problem accessing it from other computers. LastPass will let you know if your password is weak and will create a random password for you if you’d like. Using LastPass you can also record and securely store important notes or sensitive information. You’ll also be able to attach documents and images to the notes. LastPass has a Profile feature that lets you create a profile for each family member, as well as each credit card and its corresponding billing address. One marked benefit of LastPass is it’s highly cross-compatible and uses the Cloud to store your data, which makes it incredibly flexible. Currently, LastPass supports Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, plus Linux, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft Surface RT. If you want to move from another password manager to LastPass, you won’t have much trouble. LastPass easily imports login info from 24 of its competitors. Getting started with LastPass is free. LastPass Premium offers unlimited mobile access for $12 annually. Dashlane It’s comparatively new, but Dashlane is earning a reputation as a remarkably easy to use, feature packed password solution. It’s also easy on the eyes and backed by AES-256 encryption. A unique feature of Dashlane is its comprehensive Digital Wallet, which allows you to store your credit card numbers and PayPal information securely. It will link cards to billing addresses, and alert you when your cards are about to expire. Dashlane’s Digital Wallet also automatically saves screen shots and receipts of your online purchases. Another perk of Dashlane is it gives you a look at your credit score in real-time. Dashlane offers the option of Google’s two-step authentication for added security and provides the convenience of a form filler. Dashlane never records your Master Password, so only you can decrypt your data and even Dashlane does not have access to your data. Dashlane offers non-Cloud based storage for free, or Cloud storage with a Premium account for $29.99 per year. The Premium account also comes with automatic sync across all devices, automatic account backup, and access to all of your passwords through the Dashlane website, even if you don’t have a Dashlane device with you. Concocting and remembering a slew of passwords is not only irritating, it exposes you to hackers when your passwords aren’t ultra strong. Use a robust password manager like LastPass or Dashlane and hide all of your vital data behind one master password. From free to low-cost solutions, making the move to a password manager is one you won’t regret. [zipfinder]
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