Here’s the truth. Most people (including myself) are really, really bad at passwords. I’m still using passwords from when I first started using the internet thirteen years ago. Instead of changing passwords over the years I just tacked on capital letters, numbers, and punctuation marks to that same initial password. To make matters worse I use the same password on multiple websites.
It’s time to update my personal system so I thought I would help you update yours.
Write Down Your Passwords on a Sheet of Paper
Ahhhh, scary, why? It’s okay. This is just a temporary step so if you forget a password during this process you can remember what it is. It will also help you remember which passwords you have updated properly and which ones you haven’t.
Get Rid of Any Passwords Saved on Your Computer
Your computer is just trying to be helpful when it offers to save your password. But if someone steals your computer and they can get past your password (which face it, probably isn’t very secure) they now have access to every account you use.
This article from Boston University will walk you through how to delete these passwords from your browser and turn off the recommendation entirely.
It’s a little scary to see your passwords fully visible to the world. This is a great time to add to your list if they aren’t already on there. Then get rid of them.
Use a Password Manager
Password managers aren’t for everyone and it’s good to find one that you trust. Lifehacker has a great list of the Five Best Password Managers. I personally use LastPass to keep track of all of my passwords for me. I can log into it on any computer and have all of my passwords ready for me… if I can’t remember them. It can also help generate very secure passwords when I want it to. However, then I have to use LastPass because I will not be able to remember them.
Change Your Passwords
I was going to write about how often you should change your passwords but then I did a quick google search and according to LifeHacker (I love their articles). You really don’t need to change your passwords unless you suspect someone might be logging into your stuff. So password changes are really only necessary if you shared a computer with your ex or you have a snoopy sibling (I was the snoopy sibling. Everyone stop saving your Facebook passwords on mom’s computer.)
However, you should probably be using different passwords for different websites and you want to do a little better than just a capitalized word with a number at the end of it.
Create an Easy to Remember Password
I don’t remember where I read it at but I thought it was a clever way of putting together a password. First you think of a phrase (and you can kill two birds with one stone if that phrase involves a number). Then you pick a piece of punctuation. Anything paired with a number, comma, period, colon, semi colon, and there’s others but you get the point. You have options. Then you use a code to represent the website you are using the password for.
So here’s an example for a Facebook account password. My phrase is “I have two dogs.” You then use the first letter of each word, capitalizing where you feel necessary and if there’s a number in it you can use the number. Then use your punctuation of choice, then something specific to the website you are using it for.
Then when I make a twitter account I can still use my phrase and punctuation just changing the code.
Or for Instagram.
It’s not a perfect system but it’s better than using your dog’s name and the number 1.
All email addresses get their own completely unique password.
All banking websites get their own completely unique password.
If a website seems a little sketchy or you just want to try it out use a completely random throw away password. You can always retrieve and change it later if you forget.
Write Your Passwords Down on a Sheet of Paper
Yep, still scary.
But really if something happened to you (or a loved one whose stuff you would become responsible for) it would be really good to have a list of their passwords. Especially their main computer password along with their phone passcode.
My husband and I have a plan to write down all of our passwords, seal them in envelopes and put them in our firebox. I trust that he won’t open it prematurely and he trusts me.
If you don’t have a firebox or don’t trust the person you could always hide the passwords somewhere else and tell someone you do trust. You can put them in a book that’s never going to get read, or in the tax return file from two years ago (you have to keep it but you’re never going to need it).
I thought about creating a password keeper printable (and I still might in the future), but then thought why bother when there’s already a ton out there. I found this one from Sparkles of Sunshine. It looks pretty and you can download it right from the page. No signing up for a newsletter or anything.
Security Answers Questionaire
While I was looking for the printable it reminded me that I need to make a list of security answers. You know. Stuff like…
- What’s your mother’s maiden name?
- What was the make of your first car?
- What was the name of your first pet?
- Where did you meet your spouse?
- What is the name of your childhood best friend?
- What was your high school mascott?
- What is your favorite food?
- What is your favorite sport’s team?
- What was the name of your high school?
- What city were you born in?
- What is your father’s middle name?
- What was the name of your first grade teacher?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Where did you spend your honeymoon?
Since you may not know all of these about your spouse/partner it’s a good idea to get them written down as they come up. Some websites have really weird security questions.
On that note, try to choose questions where the answers are a little harder to figure out. It’s easy to choose the easy ones but it’s also easy for someone to check your facebook and see where you spent your honeymoon or figure out your favorite sports team.
Do You Feel Safer
I feel like I learned quite a bit while learning about passwords for this article. I hope you learned something too. If you know something I don’t leave me a message down in the comments.