Hackers are everywhere. They can be professionals looking to gather banking information, students going for an online joyride, or malefactors out to damage reputations. They break into emails, phones, computers, and bank accounts. Fortunately, you can lower your risk by taking a few extra precautions. Here are some tips to keeping your passwords secure.

 

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 1. Choose a strong password

It only takes an experienced hacker 10 minutes to randomly guess an all lower-case, six character password, so more elaborate passwords are necessary. IT Services at the University of Chicago and Google offer this advice to choosing a secure password:

 

Avoid using dictionary words

One common method for hacking is known as a brute force attack. Hackers will spend hours at their computer trying different passwords. Using dictionary words – even ones in different languages – can make you susceptible to this trial and error attack method.

 

Avoid using names in any form

Don’t use your mom’s name, your pet’s name, your third-grade teacher’s name, the name of the street you grew up on, or any other name. It’s too easy for hackers to guess, especially given the amount of information on individuals that’s available publicly on the web.

 

Don’t use common misspellings of dictionary words, keyboard sequences, or other sequential characters

QT4u2013 is not a secure password. Neither is qwerty123 or abc123.

 

Use multiple character types

Don’t just use lower-case letters. Mix it up by including capital letters, lower-case letters, numbers, symbols (@#), and punctuation (?!). Use at least four of the five character categories in your passwords.

 

Use a phrase that only you know

Think of a phrase that no one else would think of. For example, “My duvet has a 400 thread count and is blue!” would become Mdha400tcaib! The character combination is varied and no hacker could guess it using a brute force attack.

 

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2. Never share your passwords with anyone

Don’t give out your password to friends or family and never respond to email requests for passwords. Your bank, Amazon, PayPal, etc. will never send you such an email.

 

3. Don’t use the same password for all your accounts

Hackers set their sights on forums and online stores instead of online banking because people use the same password for everything. These sites are easier to hack and the result is the same: the hacker gains access to your online bank account.

 

4. Make sure that your Forgot Your Password settings are secure and up to date

Celebrity hacker Christopher Chaney, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for hacking, used the Forgot Your Password feature to break into the email accounts of over 50 individuals including Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis. Using public information available online, he was able to answer security questions and gain access to private content including intimate photographs, which he then published online.

 

5. Do not log into any personal accounts when using public networks or computers

If you’re using a computer at a public library or browsing the web on your mobile device at a café that offers free Wi-Fi, do not log into email accounts, bank accounts, or any other accounts. Hackers can easily gain access to your username and password using remote keystroke tracking software.

 

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6. Change your password frequently

If you logged into accounts on a public Wi-Fi network, traveled abroad, or have even the slightest suspicion that your password may have been susceptible at any point, change it immediately. Paranoia is a good thing when it comes to password security.

  

How paranoid are you when it comes to password security? Let us know @NapkinBetaBeyond.

 

Image credit: Alicia Rae, Intel Free Press, hi-tech.mail