Passwords: Tips & Importance
“I can’t keep track of all these passwords.”
“I can’t remember my password anymore. It might have been something like…”
“What password? I don’t even have one for my e-mail.” [Yes, you do, actually.]
“Why do we even need all these passwords anyway? I don’t have anything to hide.”
These are all comments we hear from customers, and we can sympathize. It sure is hard to keep track of passwords for all of your accounts. However, they are necessary, and it is important to remember or at least keep a record of them. Passwords are like keys to all the settings and information hosted in an account. Just as you have keys to your home and car to let yourself in and protect everything inside, so also you have a password key that puts you, the user, in control of your account.
Even if you don’t have sensitive information, each website needs some way of recognizing and verifying who you are so it can link you to your particular specifications. Websites need to be able to distinguish between users and make sure that only a password-protected user can access his/her account. Imagine if anyone could access your information and make changes to it. You may not have sensitive e-mails with financial information, but what if any person, intending harm or not, could go in and reorganize your communications, deleting things you wanted to keep or sending out e-mails under your identity to take advantage of others? Obviously this could stir up a great many problems. This is why passwords are necessary from both a practical and security standpoint.
Tips for Passwords
Now that you understand the necessity and importance of passwords, here are some tips to put into practice:
• Always WRITE DOWN new passwords when you CREATE them. It’s so easy to quickly create a new online account, type a new password once, then twice to confirm it, and forget it entirely after that. Take an extra moment to grab a pen and write down your account info: the username/e-mail, password, and any other security questions or verifications. If you quickly scribble this info on a scrap of paper, make sure to keep that paper until you’ve had time to copy it down in a notebook or other organized place.
• Always WRITE DOWN passwords when you CHANGE them. If you update a password, go back to that organized place where you record all your passwords, cross out the OLD password, and write down the UPDATED password in its place. The old one is no longer valid, so don’t confuse yourself by hanging onto it. If you change the locks on your house, the old keys do no good. The same goes for old passwords. Also record any updates to security info and questions. It’s a good idea to record the date when you changed a password, especially if it’s an account that requires a new password every so often.
• Choose a password that is easy for you to remember but not too easy for others to guess. It’s best to avoid password elements that people commonly use such as names of family members or pets, house number or street name, and birth dates. Intermixing upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols usually makes for a more secure password. However, you probably won’t want to make most passwords so convoluted that you cannot ever remember them or they take a long time to type.
• Don’t use the SAME password for everything. It might be easy to remember if you use the same password, but that means if someone were to figure it out, they could get into all accounts that use this password. Particularly more sensitive accounts (e.g. financial and medical) should have distinct, difficult-to-guess passwords. With less critical accounts (e.g. social media, entertainment) using the same password may not be a big deal.
• Be selective about which passwords you allow your browser to remember. Most browsers and accounts have a function where you can have the browser “remember” your passwords so that you don’t have to type them in each time you visit the site. With critical accounts like banking, it’s best to say “never remember” password. You should only ever allow a browser to remember passwords when you’re using a familiar, secure computer. That means checking “never remember” or “not now” if using a public computer or friend’s device. While this helpful tool can save time, it’s better to be secure than sorry. Additionally, if you have to type in your password each time, you’re more likely to remember it.
With your record of varied, strong passwords, you can be in control of your accounts and feel confident to log in securely online.