Technical: How To Create Strong Online Passwords & Remember Them

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Strong passwords are longer than eight characters, are hard to guess and contain a variety of characters, numbers and special symbols. The best ones can be difficult to remember, especially if you’re using a distinct login for every site (which is recommended). This is where password managers come in.

Use a password manager to keep track of your passwords

Password managers such as 1Password or LastPass can create and store strong, lengthy passwords for you. They work across your desktop and phone. The tiny caveat is that you’ll still have to memorize a single master password that unlocks all your other passwords. So make that one as strong as it can be. Compare best managers 2024 list, and here  best USA password managers.

Password managers with their single master passwords are, of course, obvious targets for hackers. And password managers aren’t perfect. LastPass suffered significant security incidents between 2011 and 2022. Notably, in late 2022, user data, billing information, and vaults (with some fields encrypted and others not) were breached, leading many security professionals to call for users to change all their passwords and switch to other password managers.

Avoid common words and character combinations in your password

The goal is to create a password that someone else won’t know or be able to easily guess. Stay away from common words like “password,” phrases like “mypassword” and predictable character sequences like “qwerty” or “thequickbrownfox.”

Also avoid using your name, nickname, the name of your pet, your birthday or anniversary, your street name or anything associated with you that someone could find out from social media, or from a heartfelt talk with a stranger on an airplane or at the bar.

Longer passwords are better: 8 characters is a starting point

8 characters are a great place to start when creating a strong password, but longer logins are better.
Use a passphrase made up of three or four random words for added security. A longer passphrase composed of unconnected words can be difficult to remember, however, which is why you should consider using a password manager.

Don’t recycle your passwords
It’s worth repeating that reusing passwords across different accounts is a terrible idea. If someone uncovers your reused password for one account, they have the key to every other account you use that password for. The same goes for modifying a root password that changes with the addition of a prefix or suffix. For example, PasswordOne, PasswordTwo (these are both bad for multiple reasons).

No need to periodically reset your password
For years, changing your passwords every 60 or 90 days was a long-accepted practice, because, the thinking went, that was how long it took to crack a password. But Microsoft now recommends that unless you suspect your passwords have been exposed, you don’t need to periodically change them. The reason? Many of us, by being forced to change our passwords every few months, would fall into bad habits of creating easy-to-remember passwords or writing them on sticky notes and putting them on our monitors.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) … but try to avoid text message codes

If thieves do steal your password, you can still keep them from gaining access to your account with two-factor authentication (also called two-step verification or 2FA), a security safeguard that requires you enter a second piece of information that only you have (usually a one-time code) before the app or service logs you in.

This way, even if a hacker does uncover your passwords, without your trusted device (like your phone) and the verification code that confirms it’s really you, they won’t be able to access your account.

While it’s common and convenient to receive these codes in a text message to your mobile phone or in a call to your landline phone, it’s simple enough for a hacker to steal your phone number through SIM swap fraud and then intercept your verification code.

A much safer way to receive verification codes is for you to generate and fetch them yourself using an authentication app like Authy, Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. And once you’re set up, you can choose to register your device or browser so you don’t need to keep verifying it each time you sign in.

Write your login credentials down.

This recommendation goes against everything we’ve been told about protecting ourselves online. But password managers aren’t for everyone, and some leading security experts, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggest that keeping your login information on a physical sheet of paper or in a notebook is a viable way to track your credentials.

And we’re talking about real, old-fashioned paper, not an electronic document like a Word file or a Google spreadsheet, because if someone gains access to your computer or online accounts, they can also gain access to that electronic password file.

Keeping passwords on a sheet of paper or in a notebook might work best for some people. Of course, someone could also break into your house and walk off with the passkeys to your entire life, but that seems less likely. At work or at home, we recommend keeping this sheet of paper in a safe place  like a locked desk drawer or cabinet and out of eyesight. Limit the number of people who know where your passwords are, especially to your financial sites.

Find out if your passwords have been stolen

Mozilla’s Firefox Monitor and Google’s Password Checkup and Have I Been Pwned can show you which of your email addresses and passwords have been compromised in a data breach so you can take action. Avoid reusing stolen passwords, hackers can effortlessly use previously stolen or otherwise exposed passwords in automated login attempts called credential stuffing to break into an account.

Find out if your login credentials are on the dark web

 

Connecting to the Internet – Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A virtual private network (VPN) is a service that gives you more security when you connect to the internet whether you’re at home, work, or on public Wi-Fi. A VPN blocks your IP address from hackers and masks it so when you use the internet your activity online is private and your identity safe. Check out NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN, and Best VPNs in 2024

Use A Private Browser 

Browsers such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox are not as secure as BRAVE – this is the browser you’ll want if you care about online privacy.  Download BRAVE to your desktop or phone and it gives you all the benefits of ad-blocking, incognito windows, private search, even VPN.  The browser also gives you faster page load, better battery life, even mobile data savings.

Review Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook’s privacy tool lets you manage how you’re tracked across the web. Be sure to review your privacy settings.

 

 

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