How Secure is My Password: 4 Essential Best Practices

NetgainFinancial IT, Healthcare IT

As modern users of the Internet, the number of passwords that we’re required to use every day can be overwhelming. On top of that, the requirements set forth for password security policies doesn’t make it any easier for us to keep all those passwords straight.

To make things easier for you, have your computer work for you.  Start using a Password Manager to create and keep your passwords.

A Password Manager is a tool that helps organize and keep secure your passwords and PIN codes.  This software is accessed by one ultra-secure password, which is the single most important password, as it protects all the others. Make it strong – I personally use a pass phrase of over 30 characters to protect such information.

The software stores your encrypted passwords in it’s database for secure logon to your applications, websites, and in some cases, it works as a form filler, automatically filling out forms for you with your correct password.

The password manager can dramatically increase your security (if you’re currently using Post-Its or a folder on your desktop called “Codes”) and efficiency in using passwords.

There are many programs that differ in cost and complexity.  (See examples of Password Managers at the end of the article).

When you are using a Password Manager to keep track of and organize your many passwords, it makes it easier to obey these password best practices recommended by Netgain:

  1.  Use Unique Passwords

When a website gets hacked, the database that contains all of the passwords is often downloaded. When this happens, those that downloaded the database will start trying the username and password combinations in other web sites.  Your username and password would be attempted on eBay, Paypal, Target, Visa, etc.  If you happened to use the same username and password on many sites, they would quickly gain access to much more than the one website offered.

  1. Use Complex Passwords

Avoid using a password that can be easily guessed.  Programs are running across the internet 24/7 trying to log into websites with words that are found in a dictionary; such as “Cloud”.  These programs also try variations of dictionary words; such as “Cl0ud”.  They also try dictionary words with numbers at the end; such as “Cl0ud123”.  If your password follows that format, it is only a matter of time before they simply guess your password.  Mix it up a bit and use a sentence instead of a single word.  Just don’t make it a movie title, because those show up in these dictionaries too.

  1. Use Classes of Passwords

If you have too many accounts to remember the passwords, create classes of passwords.

  • Low class would be for things like coupon websites and sites that simply won’t create a headache for you if they are compromised.

  • Create a middle class for things like email and Facebook.

  • Create a high class for things like your financial accounts.  Keep in mind that your financial account may have an email account registered.  Therefore, the email account that is registered must be in the same class or higher than the other account that it protects.

  1. Keep it Private

As soon as you share your password with someone else, you need to be concerned with what they do with the password.  Do they write it down, do they give it to someone else, do they use it in ways that they shouldn’t?  If you must share a password, make a point to change it soon.

A password manager tool is a great way to ease the pain of remembering the complex passwords for your many credential-driven applications or websites.

While Netgain does not officially endorse or support any particular product, these products are currently being utilized by various Netgainers.

Your Turn:  What are you doing to ensure that your passwords are secure?