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October 2015

Choosing perfect passwords

Computer hacking is (or should be) a concern to every computer user. According to MSN, hackers infiltrated online accounts of more than 100 million Americans in 2015. In July, a breach of government computer systems was reported, resulting in the theft of 21.5 million Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.

To help combat the pervasive problem, MSN recently published 12 tips for choosing the perfect password for online accounts. The authors say two key elements make for a safe password - "it should be easy to remember and hard to crack."  

Among the dos and don'ts:

  • Use "passphrases," such as abbreviating a sentence. For an example they shortened the phrase "I have two kids: Jack and Jill" as "Ih2k:JaJ."
  • Avoid basing passwords on personal data like a pet's name, anniversary, car license number, or other easy-to-discover information.
  • Don't form a password with fewer than six characters or one that matches a word in a dictionary, whether read forward, reversed, pluralized or with a mix of lower and upper case letters.  "A hacking program (often called a 'cracker') can try the full set in less than one minute, according to MSN.
  • An 8-digit alphanumeric will generate 645 trillion combinations as against 100 million for a number-only password.
  • Consider using password management software for generating and storing strong passwords. (According to Top 10 Review, RoboForm Everywhere is 2015's top-rated software program; it retails for around $10 for the first year subscription.)

View the complete set of tips for creating a secure password.