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Choose secure passwords

By   /   August 16, 2011  /   Comments

I know it is a pain in the neck to have passwords and I know how hard it is to remember different ones for different sites. There was a time when we didn’t have to lock our car doors either; but that time has passed.

We must protect our lives and property with generally accepted safe practices and be vigilant to intruders and that includes using passwords effectively.

I’m addressing this column to those of you who resist passwords and I want to urge you to at least follow some minimum guidelines.

Strong passwords contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols and contain 14 or more characters. Eight characters is a minimum!

To begin, check your passwords for strength. There are several free password checkers available and I’ll recommend two. As a standard I suggest the password-checker at Microsoft’s Safety and Security Center:

http://tinyurl.com/3qdmohy. Secondly, Passwordmeter.com rates your passwords and tells you what’s wrong or right with them. Use this site for minimum passwords. For important ones like, PC log-on, banking and emails use the MS one.

The front door to your PC is your log on password or Windows Password. If you don’t have one you should. Choose something easy for you to remember, or write it down and keep it handy. Most cyber break-ins occur from someone off site, not a physical intruder to your home. I’m speaking here to home users, not to small businesses owners who may have employees with easy access to each other’s PCs. Don’t use something obvious and don’t use password hints that give it away. Choose one that’s at least “strong” by MS standards.

Choose a “strong” one for your email as well (I don’t have a problem with using the same one for your email and Facebook). Just remember that if your email account or Facebook account is ever compromised you must immediately change your password.

For your banking and for PayPal , choose one that meets the “best” rating by MS and do all your online transactions with either your bank or PayPal. Don’t give your credit card info to every merchant that you buy from on the Internet. Your bank and PayPal exercise high standards of security and though they are not perfect, they are considered safe.
Now for the rest of your passwords, I don’t care if you relax a little. Many experts tell you not to use the same one twice. For the “all other” category I don’t care. Pick yourself a password that you can easily remember and use it for miscellaneous sites that require log in; but don’t give them financial info (stick to PayPal for that). You can personalize it for each site. A password of Pa$$wurd becomes Ajax*Pa$$wurd for logging in to the Ajax Shoe company for example.

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About the author

Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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