Your password is your first line of defense against identity thieves, hackers, and others who would love to drain your bank account, open credit cards in your name, and otherwise wreak havoc with your financial and personal life. If you fail to create a strong password and keep it secret, you are opening yourself up to all manner of online trouble.
Unfortunately, many people make some serious mistakes with their passwords, and those blunders put them at risk every time they go online. You may have heard that “1234” and “password” are among the most commonly used credentials, and user surveys suggest that is true. But you do not have to make such obvious mistakes to put yourself at risk. Here are some of the most common password mistakes people make, and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1 – Making Your Password Too Short
A short password may be easy to remember, but it is anything but secure. With every digit you add to your password the security level rises significantly, so you should avoid short passwords like the plague.
If your password is shorter than six characters, you should change it immediately. Seven or eight characters is an even better minimum, but the longer you can make your password the better.
Mistake #2 – Using a Password That is Easy to Guess
There is more information about you out there than you might think, so be extra cautious when setting your password. You might think that using the name of your dog as your password is a smart idea, but have you ever mentioned your pet on your Facebook page? If so, a crafty hacker could easily guess your credentials and take charge of your online life.
Using a password that is easy to guess is one of the most common blunders there is. Pet names, the names of your children and other such information is all too easy to guess, and chances are that information is already online in some form. It is best to choose a password that consists of a random string of letters, numbers, and special characters.
You can always create a pneumonic device to help you remember that lengthy and complicated password. For instance, “ICUL@@king@Me” is a highly secure password, yet it is also quite easy to remember.
Mistake #3 – Using the Same Password Everywhere
Using the same password everywhere online is a common and dangerous blunder, one that many people are guilty of. If you use the same password across dozens of websites, a single data breach could put your entire online identity at risk.
It is much better to use a different password at every site you visit. It may be more work, but this strategy is far more secure. If you cannot bring yourself to use a separate password for every online interaction, at least create a unique set of credentials for every category of website. You could, for instance, set up one password for online shopping, a second for banking, and a third for social media sites.
Mistake #4 – Never Changing Your Password
Never changing your password can be just as dangerous as using the same set of credentials everywhere you go. You never know when the security of a site has been compromised, and with so many security breaches, it is hard to keep up with the latest hacking attempts.
Changing your password frequently is the best defense against data breaches and online hacking, so set a schedule and stick to it. It might take some effort, but changing your password frequently is one of the best ways to protect yourself online.
Mistake #5 – Sharing Your Password
Sharing your password is always a bad idea, so avoid the temptation and keep your credentials to yourself. You might think you can trust your best friend with your Amazon.com password, but what happens when you have a falling out? Your password is a highly personal thing, and there is simply no reason to share it.
No matter how often you go online or what you do when you get there, the password you enter is a critical line of defense between your personal information and the bad guys who want to steal it. Avoiding the five critical password blunders outlined above is the best way to keep your data safe.