used with permission from Norton by Symantec
by Nadia Kovacs
According to the credit reporting firm Experian, the average Internet user has about 19 different online accounts, for which they only have seven different passwords. In addition, one in ten users never change their online passwords, and one in 20 uses the same passwords for all of their online accounts.
Those statistics definitely show that the password system is broken. When passwords were invented in the 60’s, they were rather simplistic, as there was not a wide scale need for them. Today we have passwords for an exponential amount of web services. Couple that with the fact that we now need to make up complicated and difficult to remember random strings of text, numbers and symbols for each of those accounts and you just get one big headache. There’s no way anyone can remember 19 passwords, let alone 5.
That’s where the password manager comes in. A password manager is a program that securely saves your passwords via encryption in one convenient location, usually a “vault” accessed by a master password- so you only need to remember ONE password to access all the rest. These programs are a great workaround to address the prevalent behaviors around password management.
Best Practices for Strong Passwords and Password Security
Yes, you really do need to use a unique password for EVERY online service you use. Why? Say you use the same password you do for Facebook as you do for your bank account. What if your Facebook account gets hacked? Now the criminal has your Facebook password AND banking password. And cybercriminals are totally hip to the fact that people really do use the same password for different accounts, so they’ll try to use that password on other sites.
A password must be a random string of characters. But they don’t really have to be 100% random. True, a secure password must contain no less than 8 characters, a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. However, it can still be memorable to you. Take a verse from your favorite song, poem, or quote.
For this example, I’ll use the quote “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” This will be the base of your password.
- Take the first letter from each sentence: KIPIIL
- Now let’s randomize the case: KiPiiL
- Take it one step further, and to ensure that the password is more than eight characters, add some numbers and symbols: 9KiP#iiL%
- That’s a pretty strong password, however, it could be stronger.
- Swap out one of the i’s with a 1 like so: 9KiP#1iL%
- And there you have it, one secure password.
One Password to Rule Them All
When it comes to secure passwords, those are the two top steadfast rules that really matter. But my goodness, having to remember 10-20 variations of that password just isn’t possible. Luckily, not only does a good password manager like Norton’s Identity Safe help you remember all those random characters, but it also adds another layer of security to your passwords.
While password managers aren’t infallible, as the recent issue with LastPass shows, they are a heck of a lot more secure than writing your password down on random sticky notes, or even putting them into a document on your computer. And they’re certainly better than using weak, insecure passwords that are easily crack-able for the sake of keeping them memorized.