You will not find it under a Christmas tree or at a Boxing Week sale. It is not a Hanukkah present. But a new online password is definitely the best free gift you can give yourself according to experts at Trend Micro Canada.
“Before you take advantage of any online shopping bargains or send Season’s Greetings to your Facebook friends, give yourself the gift of a strong online password. A strong password keeps personal information safe and secure—while a weak one is like leaving your front door open for anyone to wander in and rifle through your stuff,” says Ian Gordon, Trend Micro Canada’s marketing chief.
Mr. Gordon and his Ottawa colleagues have come up with their top tips for good passwords:
- Mix it up: Your passwords should be at least eight characters long and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers or symbols.
- Be impersonal: Any variation of family names, pets, addresses or important dates isn’t secure enough. Spelling them backwards is not safe either as it is a fairly common practice.
- Be unique: Your password should not be a common word in English or any other language. Hackers can use programs that check all words in the dictionary.
- Sequence matters: Don’t pick a password that has all of the characters next to each other on a keyboard (12345 or qwerty) because they are easy to figure out.
- Change is good: At least every 90 days. If you think that someone may have gained access to your system or online accounts, change it immediately.
- No sticky notes: Don’t store passwords on your computer or on a sticky note next to your screen. Keep it hidden away in a secure location.
- Think it through: If it’s too easy to remember, it’s probably too easy to figure out as well. You can take a phrase and use the first letters to make a password. For example, “I like to drink 3 cups of coffee” could become the password Il2d3coc.
- Misspell with purpose: It’s a good idea to misspell words and add numbers in. Instead of “doghouse” try”doGhoWse219″. Since this isn’t a real word and it mixes in upper and lower case and numbers, it would be much more secure than the simple “doghouse” password.
- Clever is good: Another good way to come up with a password that you can remember, but is still secure, is to substitute numbers for letters that look somewhat similar. For example, the words “bell tower” can be converted to the password “B377T0w3r”, which would be quite hard for anyone to figure out.