Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's the word?

Password, that is. While driving to work Friday morning, I heard something on the radio that got me thinking. It was a trivia question- the average person has at least six of these. You can't touch it but you can give it to someone and they can use it. The answer is password. I started thinking, " that is really a small number". Off the top of my head I can think of way more than six that I have. And it's not surprising that people have six or more with all of the the online technology we use. So many things occur with a computer and online - banking, bill paying, shopping, selling, message boards, and blogs, just to name a few. I started trying to count the number of passwords I have. For work I have six. I stopped counting at twenty personal passwords.

I also did a quick search for password tips. Here's the best ones that I found:

1. Make it something you can remember. (DUH?)

2. Avoid using a word found in any dictionary. It seems hackers can figure these out easily. A password should be a random string of characters.

3. Make it lengthy- Yahoo says at least seven characters and Microsoft says eight to fourteen.

4. A password should be a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Use the whole keyboard.

5. Don't use personal information that is easily obtained or easy to guess, such as birthdays, family names, address, etc.

6. Use more than one password. Don't use the same one for all your accounts. Some can be repeated for message boards and such if the site doesn't hold your personal or financial information.

So how the heck can you come up with a good password that is secure and strong and that you can remember? I found conflicting opinions on online password generators. They can create strong passwords but will be hard to remember. If you use password generators, make sure you trust the site and don't store personal info there.

Here's the best tip I found for creating your own passwords. Instead of the dog's name ( which could be guessed by a hacker) make up a sentence. My dog's name is Missy. Then take the first letter of each word. MDNIM. Then make some substitutions. MDN!M. ! substituted for i. Change some letters to lower case. The password is Mdn!M.

Lastly, write it down. Microsoft says it is more secure written down at home than on an online storage that hackers can access. Also, if you want to check the strength of your passwords, you can do so here.

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