Remember when the world of passwords was one of fun, childish intrigue and access to special people, places and things?
Passwords used to be crucial to being an elite member of the Little Rascals’ He-Man Woman Haters Club. Life didn’t get much better than that. Unless you also got to get into neat places with a secret handshake, such as a speakeasy during prohibition.
Now, passwords are your windows on the digital world or, if you’re not careful, some bad guy’s window on your finances, hobbies, quirks, shopping habits and every other aspect of your once-private lives.
So we turn again to our Marcophiles column Digital Dude, computer/Internet/iCloud, all-knowing cyber expert, Patrick Junkroski. We asked Pat for some tips on using and avoiding abuse of your computer-related passwords.
Think difficult, different and diligent
“The very things that make a password easy for you to remember are frequently the same things that make a password easy for others to guess,” Patrick says. “Use the same password on lots of sites, and if your password is cracked by nefarious evildoers on one website, they can guess your access to many others.
“If you write your passwords down on paper, you risk that paper being discovered or discarded. If you set your browser to remember passwords, then anyone who gains access to your computer will be able to enjoy the same auto-login capabilities to your accounts that you do.
“It’s good to have different, difficult passwords. Furthermore, it’s good to change them often.
“If you choose only one password to change frequently, say every 60 to 90 days, make it the password for your email address. Your email is so critical, not just to your everyday work but also to retrieving and resetting other passwords, so this is the one you most want to protect.”
Keep your account data on file up to date
“For the websites you visit frequently, make sure your account data on file is up to date. Most companies’ password reset/retrieval systems rely on sending a link to the email address they have on file for you. If you have an outdated email address listed with them, you will not receive that password reset link. You will be required to confirm your identity in other ways, which can be very frustrating and time consuming. Simply keeping your account information up to date can save you much frustration.
“Some websites will force you to reset your password if you haven’t logged in for a while. It is safe to make a list of all the websites for which you use a password (just don’t write the passwords down). Go through that list once in a while and log in to each site. Then, check your account information with it. This has the added benefit of keeping the passwords fresh in your mind as well.”
Our thanks to Pat Junkroski for his insights. His website: www.mytechnologypros.com.
Passwords to avoid and one with possibilities
A lot of people use the password, “password.” Dumb idea. Many use consecutive numbers, such as “1,2,3.” Those who really want to foil the password thieving evildoers often go all out, with such mind benders such as, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.”
Here’s an idea for people with a lot of free time. Make your password Pi. You know Pi, usually written “π”, the math constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The standard short form is, Pi = 3.14159265. Not a bad computer password, but if you want to be sure, use a lot more of the numbers that are part of Pi.
Pi has been calculated as having trillions of numbers. So if you go out far enough, you’ll wear out most humans before they crack your password.
Or just make it “appleπ.”Nobody would expect a password that easy.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail email@example.com. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.