Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guard Your Online Info with a Strong Password

Earlier this fall I mentioned that I'd spent part of the summer reading all the detective/mystery novels by Michael Connelly. One of the novels, The Scarecrow (borrowed from the DeKalb Public Library's ebook collection), features a very, very bad guy who is also a computer security expert.   I was alarmed at how easily this bad guy was able to break into various characters' email and bank accounts, destroying their finances and careers by altering and deleting vital information.   My passwords have been reasonably ok, but since The Scarecrow, I've been going through and upgrading all my passwords, starting with email, and anything that has financial information involved (bank, PayPal, Amazon.com, mortgage company, iTunes, etc etc).

 AARGH!! How can anybody come up with strong, unique passwords for every single dad-blamed website (because, of course, you have to have a username and password for EVERYTHING, from PiBites to updating your directory information, all on different platforms with different accounts.)

Fortunately, Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian, has come up with a nifty comic tutorial encapsulating all the sage advice on creating unique, strong AND rememberable* passwords for all your sites.  In a nutshell:
  • 1. Make your password at least 12 characters long.
  • 2. Make it complex -- use a phrase (not just a dictionary word) with special characters,
    numbers and both upper and lower case letters
  • 3. Add to your main passphrase characters that make it unique for each site (for instance, the
  • first three letters of the site name, backwards) so you have to remember only one complicated phrase, and the site reminds you of the rest.
Can you guess the passphrase in this post's title? It's  f0rP3+3sS@k#!  (for petes sake!).  Vowels are from the number line, spaces are brackets }, and the "t" was replaced by a plus sign.  It looks completely random, but you and I know the secret to remembering it.

The complete tutorial is in the graphic below, and you can download a higher-resolution printing copy of the file from Gwyneth's Flickr site. Post it on your office bulletin board or next to the computer  -- but f0r}P3+3]sS@k#! don't write your passphrase on it!

Of course, you also have to figure out all the zillion sites where you've had to set up accounts over the years, but I can't help you with that.

Check out the rest of The Daring Librarian's 10 Super Geeky Tips for the New Year on her blog.

Are you using lame passwords?  Do you have any additional password tips?  Share in the comments!

* "memorable" is for dates and fabulous novels. "Rememberable" -- able to be remembered -- is a much better for this purpose :-)

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