With more and more of us shifting everyday tasks—banking, education, social interaction, even shopping for groceries—to the virtual world, securing our personal information has become more important than ever. One of the simplest ways to help protect our financial and other info from prying eyes and would-be identity thieves is to use a strong password. Yet many people take a decidedly casual approach to choosing a password, with potential disastrous results.
Having your password compromised is no laughing matter. More than half a million hackers have a go at cracking Facebook passwords every single day. In an effort to protect its users, the site gives specific tips for protecting both your Facebook account and any financial information you may have saved on the site—unsurprisingly, choosing a strong password is high on the list.
Facebook’s not the only place you have to worry about securing your financial info, of course. A 2013 investigation by Verizon found that, across 27 different countries, attacks on banks and other financial institutions account for a full 37% of data breaches. In 76% of these intrusions, the hackers simply used a weak or stolen password to access the system. Password theft is one thing, but if all that separates a would-be thief from millions of dollars is the name of someone’s pet gerbil, it may be time to beef up password protocol.
So what constitutes the “perfect” password? If you’re serious about security, a strong password will include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, symbols, and even non-keyboard characters. It will be unique (using the same password for everything might be common, but it’s also spectacularly unsafe). It’s also greater than eight characters in length, contains arbitrary phrases made using numbers and letters (e.g., “b4D P4S$W0Rd”), but no complete words. And no matter how secure your password is, it’s made more secure by changing it regularly.
Strong, adequate, or weak, no password can protect against every possible threat. But by following our tips, you can help keep your social media accounts in your own hands, make your financial info safer, and encourage meddling thieves and hackers to seek easier prey.
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