Although using a strong password might take a bit of extra effort to remember and to type in each time you want to access a site, it’s worth having one so you can make sure your personal information stays secure. You wouldn’t want anyone and everyone to be able to access your banking information, social media accounts, emails or whatever else, right?
Using a weak password could not only result in your friends getting spammy emails “from you” but could actually result in total identity theft, a rampant threat in our modern age. Here are some tricks to making sure your information stays private:
Our first instinct when creating a password is to come up with something easy to remember. But if it’s easy to remember, it’s likely also easy to crack. A strong password should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and it should be completely random—none of this “1234567890” or “[NAME][BIRTHDAY]”. Whether you want to randomly mash some buttons on the keyboard, use a password generator, or come up with your password some other way, this is really the only way to create a password that will be difficult for a bot to guess.
But how, you might ask, should you remember a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols? You definitely don’t want to leave it lying around on a sticky-note next on your computer; not only does this compromise your security by allowing anyone to log into your account(s) should they find the note, but there’s also that nagging worry that you might accidentally throw it out. Instead, there are a couple mnemonics you could try—for example, come up with a sentence and create your password based on that: “My mother once had a keyboard with 61 keys” could become a password like “MM1=KW61K.”
You shouldn’t stop at creating just one secure password though; instead, you should create a new one for every account you use, even if you don’t think there’s much secure data stored in that account. You never know what hackers could dig up about you given access to even the most seemingly-trivial bit of data, and hey, it’s all about your privacy anyway. Of course, if you thought remembering one strange password was difficult, you’re probably panicked at the thought of having multiple passwords to remember, but that’s where a password manager comes in handy.
A strong password manager will allow you to store your passwords on your device; Rather than having them out there for anyone to see, the passwords will be encrypted, and you’ll need to use a different password to unlock them. It may take a little extra time each time you need to input your password, but it’s definitely worth it for the peace of mind you’ll have at knowing there’s that extra layer of protection on your important information.
But creating a strong password is just the start of it; you also need to make sure no one manages to get their hands on your password. As mentioned, you don’t want to have a physical copy of your password lying around, but it goes further than that. See, every time you access websites, your computer shares information packets (cookies) with the site. These contain information about your browsing history and account details; and your computer doesn’t always discriminate between what’s relevant content and what isn’t, so sometimes it will share information that isn’t even related to that site! This means that your passwords for various accounts (and your personal information) are really out there for anyone to see, any time you’re using the internet.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way. A VPN will limit the information that your computer shares with a site, and it will send your information via an encrypted tunnel, meaning that prying eyes won’t be able to see your passwords and personal information. Whether you’re using public WiFi networks or your own personal home network, you should be using a VPN to make sure that you’re not leaking your information unnecessarily. This will boost the security of your passwords in a big way.
A VPN has other uses as well. It gives you a closed connection to the internet that can stop hackers from being able to access your computer across the network and load it up with malware or spyware. And beyond keeping your password safe, it can also protect you from identity theft by blocking out information about your bank accounts and other sensitive data. Plus because it hides your VPN, you can use it to unblock Netflix while you’re traveling, despite those pesky geo-restrictions that the company uses to protect copyrighted materials. So really, there’s no reason not to use a VPN.
With all the information we store online these days, we definitely need to be careful to select well-crafted passwords. After all, the last thing you want is to have your personal identity compromised! Take every precaution you can to make sure your personal information stays safe and secure.