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Online Financial Security: Improve Your Passwords

By on March 7, 2014 in Money

Online Financial Security: Improve Your PasswordsIt seems every week a new report shows yet another breach at a financial institution, major retailer, or major website. Thousands or millions of account names, user IDs, passwords, and credit card information is stolen by hackers in each breach.

Just because someone gets some data off of the servers of these hacking victims doesn’t mean they have automatic access to your account. Hopefully the passwords have some encryption on them that makes it more difficult to crack, but often the usernames or e-mail addresses are left wide open.

You might think you would be safe, but if someone has your email address and you use a basic password they can easily get access to your accounts.

Improve Financial Security by Improving Your Password

The easiest way to prevent this problem? Build a stronger password.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

Avoid Common Passwords

You would (hopefully) be surprised just how many people use passwords such as:

  • password
  • 123456
  • password123

And so on. These basic passwords are one of the first things someone trying to break into your account is going to use because they are so common. Don’t fall for this simple trick. Change your password to something, anything that isn’t so common.

Don’t Use Personal Information

The second thing you want to avoid is using personal information.

Sometimes people think they are being clever when they use “passwordXXXX” where the 4 Xs are the year they were born or the month and year they were born.

Just think: if someone just hacked into one of your service companies, they might just have some personal information on you. It might be your birthday, your address, whether or not you’re married… it all depends on where the hack was. So they have the ability to think of adding your birth year to the end of the word password. Be smarter than that – avoid doing this!

Build a Password to Annoying to Bother Cracking

No password is uncrackable. If enough processing power is pointed at a password, it can be brute forced eventually. (Brute force is where the computer trying to break the password just tries every combination possible.)

The best type of password has:

  • uppercase letters
  • lowercase letters
  • numbers
  • symbols
  • no common words
  • no personal information

Something like 4X59@f8T& would make a pretty strong password. It would take eons to brute force crack it. That’s the idea: make your password too annoying to bother cracking so the hackers move on to lower hanging fruit.

The only problem is, “4X59@f8T&” is really difficult to remember.

To fix this problem, come up with a unique password system for each website or service you use. You might put three random numbers in the front, some letters after that, then the last two letters of the website’s name at the end capitalized.

So for EZRateQuotes, you might have “82hpfEZ”. Using the same system, your Google password would be “82hpfGO”.

This gives you a unique password that isn’t shared amongst a bunch of websites. A common problem is once you are hacked at one website, the hackers try your email address or login plus your password at popular websites. If you use the same password everywhere it isn’t very secure.

With this method, every password is different, but the system is easy to remember. Granted, you are slightly more at risk because someone might figure out your system, but the odds of that are pretty slim. This protects you more from brute force hacks or hacks where your password wasn’t securely stored by eliminating the possibility of one password breach leading to multiple accounts hacked.

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