ST. GEORGE — With the changing of the seasons, many feel the need to “spring clean.” While some people take tips from the Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” to declutter their home, it’s also important to spend time cleaning up your passwords.
Spring cleaning your passwords isn’t just a good cleaning habit, it’s also a great way to protect yourself from security hacks such as malware and phishing.
Strong passwords can prevent hackers from installing malware on your machine and sending out phishing emails from your account. Protect yourself and your contact list by cleaning up your passwords this season.
To effectively clean up your passwords, TDS offers the following tips:
- Password length is key. Each character you add to a password or passphrase makes it an order of magnitude harder to attack via brute-force methods. At minimum, ensure your password is at least eight characters.
- Do not choose common passwords, such as “spring2019,” “summer2019,” “fall2019,” “winter2019” or “password2019”.
- Avoid choosing passwords based upon details that may not be as confidential as you’d expect, such as your birth date, your Social Security or phone number or names of family members. The names of people you know, your pets or important dates are too simple or easy to guess.
- Some of the easiest-to-remember passwords aren’t words at all but collections of words that form a phrase or sentence – perhaps the opening sentence to your favorite novel or the opening line to a good joke.
- When given the option, always choose to enable stronger authentication than what is required.
- Never use the same password for multiple accounts, so if an attacker is able to guess one password, they won’t have access to all of your accounts.
- When given the option, always enable two-factor authentication. This will add a second verification step to your authentication process so that if an attacker does have your password, they won’t be able to use it by itself to log into your account.
- To create a strong password, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
How do you make such a password?
For this example, let’s pretend your favorite vacation spot is New York. You definitely don’t want to just use that. Instead, try the following:
- Spell a word backwards (for example, turn “New York” into “kroywen”).
- Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters (for example, turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n”).
- Randomly throw in some capital letters (for example, turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n”).
- Don’t forget the special characters (for example, turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^”).
But don’t just “set it and forget it.” Just as the seasons change, consider changing all of your passwords coinciding with each new season. Even if you made a password that would take a few centuries to hack, it should be changed regularly.
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