With Ebay asking all of its 233 million users to reset their passwords following a data breach, the time for all of us to look at the passwords we use on the internet is highlighted once again. Although Ebay is saying that all of the data is encrypted, it shows just how easily your information can fall into the wrong hands.
With password leaks becoming more frequent, having one password for all your online accounts isn't a great idea. Neither is still using the same password you created when you first used the internet all those years ago. There is no better time to change your password to make sure your data stays secure.
But how do you go about doing that, and what's the best way to choose a new password?
Don't give it out
We know, sounds obvious doesn't it, but you'll be amazed how many people ignore this valuable tip and blurt it out, whether its to your partner because you are too lazy to check your email yourself or someone as you shout it across the office. There is a simple rule. DON'T DO IT.
Make it hard to guess
Yes we've all seen enough "hacker" movies to know that God, Sex and Secret are supposedly the most common used passwords out there. But really a password should be more than eight characters, include a variety of letters and numbers and not be the name of your pet dog called Toby. If you are clever enough to remember, even better would be to choose a random word not in the dictionary, that will fox them. Your password should be a minimum of eight letters long with longer passwords even better. A three-letter password isn't going to cut it these days, well unless you want to be hacked. Other tips for creating hardware include:
Spelling out a word and replacing the vowels with numbers: P4ssw0rd
Taking a phrase and crunching that into a number of letters: Would you like to go out for dinner becomes wyltgofd
Remove some of the letters: Flicker becomes Flckr
Add punctuation randomly: Pa$$word
Misspell your password: Decieve
Use two or more words: This_is_my_password
Use a really long word: Antidisestablishmentarianism
Use all of the above suggestions: WyL$g_0fdnr
The stronger you can make it, while still remembering it, the better it will be and harder to crack.
Don't write it down
We've never been to your house, but we bet you you've got a piece of paper somewhere near your computer with a stack of passwords written on it for different things like your broadband access key or home wireless network.
If you've gone a bit high-tech you'll have them in an email somewhere on your computer or auto saved, to save you having to re-enter them every time. If that's the case, please tell me that you've got a screensaver with password protection on, else when you lose or have your laptop stolen you've just given them everything.
Change your password right now
It's okay we aren't tracking what you type and you should never change your password based on a request from an email or website, however you should change your passwords every couple of months to make sure that it isn't leaked or hacked.
A good way to do it is to add an element to your current password, which loops every 12 months or every quarter for example. So Password1 for January, Password12 for December. Making them out of sequence will improve the strength of the password. You could also take this a step further and create passwords on a theme, just make sure the theme isn't your favourite hobby. If they know you are a Trekie it will be easy to know your password is Enterprise.
Don't just have one password for all sites
We know with all the social networking sites you belong to like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr you've got plenty of possible passwords to remember, but whatever you do don't just make them all the same. Instead create a system that you will remember that uses a base password and then adds an element for the site in question. So if your facebook password would be PasswordFacebook mixing it up will make it stronger still.
Use a Password Manager
But there's a handy little tool that can make your online life just a little bit easier. It's called a password manager. A password manager will ease your brain, save you from headaches and free up time for more productive things rather than remembering a million passwords for a million accounts. Read our Password managers explained feature, what the best apps available are, and why you need one.
What are your suggestions or tips for creating safe passwords? Let us know in the comments below