Choosing Online Passwords

Health and Safety

Very few things in life are as annoying as forgetting your online password. One exception is getting your online password discovered, your account hacked and your identity stolen. These suggestions for creating secure and unique passwords will help you avoid both.

Don't use obvious passwords. Obvious passwords, although easy to remember, defeat the purpose of having a password: They're easily guessed. Using your name, birth date, phone number, email address, "qwerty," a number sequence such as "12345," or repeating a number or letter are all obvious passwords that should be avoided.

Don't use the same password for every site. With the large number of password protected sites you subscribe to, it's tempting to use the same password for all of them. Bad idea. Once the password for one is discovered, they're all discovered. An alternative is to use the same password for low-risk sites and use unique passwords for high-risk sites — bank accounts, for example.

Use passwords with a mix of letters, symbols and numbers. Google's Gmail blog did the math: You're a lot more likely to be hacked if you only use letters in your password.

Create passwords that are easy for you to remember but improbable for anyone to guess. The street you live on is easy to find out. The name of your dog when you were 9 is not.

Use mnemonics. A mnemonic is a strategy that helps you remember something. Use word association to trigger your memory with. For example, if the name of your bank is First National, your password could incorporate the name of your first dog, boyfriend or job.

Don't leave your passwords where they can be seen. Leaving a list of passwords next to your computer is a bad idea. It doesn't take a genius to figure out your password is "dreamcatcher" when you have "dreamcatcher-bank password" written on a piece of paper on your desk.

Don't store passwords on your web browser. Keep in mind that anyone using your computer will have access to your account when you store your passwords.

Write passwords in an inconspicuous location. It's OK to write your passwords down. Write them in a manner, however, that only you could possibly figure out what they are. Use codes. Disguise them as phone numbers. Incorporate them in a phony letter. Be creative. Your identity may depend on it.

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