Technically Living: How to Choose the Best Password

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computer-room-314632-mInformation security has always been an issue. However, in our increasingly connected world in which more and more of our accounts are migrating online, security is no longer something in which just computer nerds dabble. Today, proper online security practices are a must for all. And though the following recommendations may be viewed as an annoyance – which is true, they are – having an online account compromised or a credit card number stolen is more of an annoyance.

Complex Passwords
Your password should never just be the word “password!” Also avoid all of the obvious options, like your name, address, phone number, birthday, significant other or child’s birthday. The password should be long and ought to involve capital letters, numbers and other symbols if they are allowed. Include everything that is allowed and make it the maximum number of characters in an effort to make it as difficult as possible. This may result in a password that is hard to remember, especially since you should not be writing passwords down on anything that may be compromised itself, such as a daily planner. To help you remember, consider using a phrase and alternating some letters for other characters. For example, if you used the phrase “I Have A Dog,” you could implement this technique as “[email protected]@D0g.” In this case the “I” becomes a “1,” the “A” becomes [email protected] and the “O” becomes zero.

Password Manager
A password manager is an online service that allows you to securely store your passwords in a system that makes it easy to use complex passwords. Imagine a system which stores encrypted passwords and helps to populate them on your computer or mobile when you need to log in. Take for example LastPass. You would create a LastPass account, install the software (web browser plugin) on your computers, and install the app on your mobile devices. You can then start storing passwords in it. If you were signing up for a new online account, you could create a very complex password and then store it in LastPass. When you log in to the account in the future, LastPass will automatically insert the password. It helps you store complex passwords, populates them and transmits them securely.

Two-Factor Authentication
Ok, I know you are a smart bunch. Right now you are sitting back saying, “Wow, that password manager idea sounds stupid. What if my master password for the password manager was stolen?” Well there is a solution for that too. Enter two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, you are also required to enter a second code after you type in your password. This code is generated by either an application on a mobile device or by a web service that then sends it to you as a text message. Without this code, you are unable to login to your account, which means even if your password is compromised, it is very difficult for a malicious agent to compromise the account. Since this sounds like a major annoyance, you can also choose to save devices. For example, on my home computer I do not have to enter this code, but if I wish to login from an internet cafe, than I would be required to enter the code. Unfortunately this last option is not available on all websites yet, though that will likely change.

– Matt Artz