Passwords: Necessary Inconveniences
Your photos appear randomly on someone else’s profile. Then important files go missing. And your personal information is exposed on the Internet.
If you protect your electronic accounts with passwords like password or dramaclubrocks or ilovetheviola, you might be at risk of exposure.
Talk to any computer security person about a list of all-around, healthy and high-fiber security tips, and they will probably mention passwords first. Of course, they will likely give you the cryptic “Always use strong passwords.” I know, it sounds like your mom or dad telling you to be safe when you go out, but Mom, Dad and the security guys all have a good point.
What Makes a Good Password?
Passwords have different facets that can help or hurt how they work and how well they protect your information.
Passwords should be:
- Hard to guess
- Made up of a complex and random combination of characters
- At least eight characters long (and longer in some cases)
- Easy to remember
- Easy to type
- Different for each account you use
It’s especially important for you to use a different password on each account. But who wants to remember all that? I don’t and I am actually excited about computer security!
You don’t want to type Z(et\y$WcSXApxa4^0`8# every time you log into an account. Let’s face it — most of us don’t want to type in even very simple passwords such as letmein or pass1234. Come on! How can you expect me to use the number keys! Someone call the Brute Squad!* What’s a person to do? Well, I have a suggestion.
The Answer to All Your Password Questions
The best method I would currently recommend is a secure application called a password vault or a password manager. Password managers safely store your login names and passwords, as well as where those passwords are used (e.g., website address), and other information such as security questions and answers. They encrypt your passwords to keep them secure from the bad guys.
There are a variety of them but I will recommend two below that are secure, easy to use, and free. With a password manager, you have to remember only one password: the one used to open your password manager. After that, things get easy.
How Does It Work?
You can configure password managers to automatically use your passwords to fill in log-in screens, or you can use more selective configurations. Some are applications that sit on the computer desktop and run like any other app on your computer. Double-click, enter your master password and you have opened the vault of all your password treasures. Others are built into your web browser and are sometimes called add-ons or plug-ins. There are mobile versions of both as well.
KeePass is a desktop application and LastPass is a browser plug-in. Both have mobile versions and, in both, you use one password to open the password vault. LastPass is a bit easier for the first-time user and Keepass is for users who prefer a desktop app with a bit more control over how it behaves.
For more information on current password managers, please take a look at this post on Lifehacker.
*If you haven’t seen “The Princess Bride,” please do so at your earliest convenience.