Protecting your passwords

After many security and data breaches for major department stores, I think most of us should get the message out. Have strong passwords and protect them. It’s good to say, but what is the reality. If you have 50 websites such as banking, investment and shopping sites for which you use different passwords, you use different passwords for each site, right? If these are strong passwords, they must be at least 14 characters long and contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and some symbols. To keep track of them all you need a good password manager.

Password Managers will keep track of all your passwords, they will recommend strong passwords, store them in the cloud so you can use them on different devices, and most of all, strongly encrypt your passwords, leaving only the encryption key. This is the basics of password managers from which the various software companies will add things like credit card management, privacy and many other additions. The most important thing is to use a very strong “Master Password”. These will never be sent or synchronized with the manager. This one password is the one that controls the encryption of all your passwords, and you are the only one who has it, so don’t lose it.

Although you would do all the right things, some sites will not let you do it. Some still force you to use an eight-character password, no longer. Some do not accept symbols and others may limit the password length. If you’re not happy with a site’s password policy, don’t shop there. Find another store that sells the same items. Remember that you have control over your passwords.

Now let’s talk about what a strong password is:

  • They must be at least 14 characters long

  • Upper and lower case letters, numbers and a few symbols

  • Do not use dictionaries forwards or backwards

  • Never use the same password more than once

  • Using a password manager prevents you from typing passwords

  • Use a very strong master password

When there is a data breach, there is not much you can control except your passwords. You will have to decide if and when to change them. Remember, changing a password is much easier then dealing with a stolen one where the bad guys can get into your back accounts or your credit card account.