At the start of each year, many people make resolutions to better themselves, but for many of them those efforts have dissipated by the time February rolls around. Well, the tech world is here to help with a new holiday that promotes personal technological responsibility: International Change Your Password Day.
The faux holiday began last year as the brainchild of the folks at Gizmodo, and it has caught on for good reason: Our lives are online now. This includes our financial information such as online bank and credit card accounts, our social media hubs and even just our email, which likely contains information ranging from our vital documents to our deepest, darkest secrets.
These are all things hackers want to get their hands on and the easiest way for them to do that is by coming through the front door — the account login. And we’re not talking about some guy sitting in front of a computer trying different words that pop into his head. No, today’s hackers have high-powered programs that can cycle through a staggering variety of potential combinations in seconds. That’s why it’s important to have unique, hard-to-crack passwords and passphrases that incorporate non-alphanumeric symbols, scrambled letters and hints to things that you, and you alone personally know. Password securityis a key component of good online hygiene.
Hopefully you know this by now, but simple words and phrases are bad — your dog’s name, your mother’s maiden name and your niece’s birthday are all easily found on your Facebook page, among other places. Don’t use these things. Also, don’t get cute by using something like ‘password’ or ‘keepout.’ In fact, a general rule of thumb is that if it is or uses a word in the dictionary, you shouldn’t use it as a password. Hence the recommendation to use non-alphanumeric symbols or scrambled words — putting the second letter of a word last and the last letter first, for instance — and if a password-protected site offers passphrase protection, so much the better.
If that all sounds a little daunting, there are password managers out there that can help you with the creation and management of your passwords. Changing a password isn’t the answer to all of your security problems, but it’s a good place to start.
Chances are your passwords could stand to be a little more secure. No better time than the most modern, tech-savvy holiday out there to take the all-important step of upgrading them.