The one thing standing between the sensitive data you store in your online accounts and an identity thief is a password. So think about your passwords, each and every one. You do have a unique password for each account, right? Would they stand up to the automated attacks that criminals often launch, trying to crack weak passwords in order to hijack accounts?
The more sensitive the information is in a particular account, the fresher and stronger your password should be. We know you’ve heard it before, but you really shouldn’t underestimate the importance of these 6-12 letters, numbers and symbols. You’re not still using only letters, right? Because a strong password uses a variety of characters, is not a word straight from the dictionary and is also not anything easily discernible to someone who knows a few facts about you, your pet’s name or birthdate for example. Remember that more and more of your personal data is now online for anyone to find thanks to social networks.
Ensuring your passwords don’t crack under pressure also means knowing when to change them. The general recommendation is every three months. Change every password and create a unique one for each account. Also change your passwords immediately in these special circumstances:
- You realize an email account has been hacked and false messages have been sent to your contact list.
- Someone other than you is making posts to your Facebook or other social networking account.
- You logged in to a sensitive account on a public computer or using public wi-fi.
- You lose your list of passwords, whether it was on paper or a stolen mobile device. Try to remember your new passwords without writing them down.
- You’re worried you may have clicked on an untrustworthy link in an email, such as a phishing scam, or online, such as a Facebook video.