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Two important features of a password are that you can remember it to use it and that no one else can access it (either by coming across it written down or by hacking it). As password hacking programs become smarter and more powerful and more opportunities are presented online to steal credit card or other personal information, anyone with an online presence needs to become more vigilant about protecting their account names and passwords.

  • Change passwords on a frequent basis.
    The more sensitive the account, the more frequently the password be changed. Passwords to bank account, email/network accounts, etc. should be changed every 90 days. You might be comfortable being less vigilant with less important accounts, such as an online account to The Baltimore Sun. Keep in mind what type of information could someone obtain about you if they gain access to less-sensitive accounts? If someone access your personal email account will they see emails from your bank?
  • Keep passwords out of reach.
    The best scenario is not to record passwords anywhere but sometimes convenience of remembering the passwords has to take precedence. If you document your password, protect that information just as you would your money.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts.
  • Privacy vs. convenience.
    Before asking any program to save your username and password, think about who can access your computer and what type of account they'd be able to access.
  • Use strong passwords.
    Create strong passwords that are meaningful enough to you to remember but not easy for others who know you to hack. A strong password is eight or more characters and combines letters, numbers, and/or symbols. Avoid using birth dates, anniversary dates, names of children, names of pets, etc. A person with the wrong intentions can have a short conversation with you and easily obtain this information while sounding interested in your life.


    My daughter's name is Alice. She was born on 2/18/99. I was married on 8/15/95. My wife's name is Joan and she was born on 4/8/65. We have a pet named Boomer.

Weak: M: Stronger: Best:
021899 0815Alice b00m3r@lic3 (boomeralice) Nothing to do with personal information at all.
081595 Joan0408Boomer o8i5&J0@n (0815&Joan)  
Joan0408 0218daughter    
  • Ideas for strong passwords:
    • Change some letters into numbers or symbols, alternate the case of letters, avoid English words, and add punctuation by using commas, semicolons, &, +, etc.
    • Use phrases, quotes, songs, poems, etc. to create a password by stringing together the first letter of each word and substituting some symbols or numbers for letters. Example: "To be, or not to be: that is the question" can become 2b,0nt0:t1tq. When it's time to change that password, take the next line from Hamlet "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer" and convert to something such as w'Tn1tmt5.
    • Take a common household object or task. For example, "coffee mug" can be changed to C0fF3e_mU9. However, if acquaintances know that you are a coffee lover with a favorite mug, this may not be a good option for you.
    • If you need to use words relevant to something in your life, combine disjointed items while still avoiding the obvious ones such as birth dates, etc. For example, take pieces from your favorite movie or TV show (The Godfather), your license plate number (DMB 037), and the name of your high school (Baltimore Polytechnic Institute) to create g0do37n1c (god 037 nic), remembering to avoid embedding any English words into your password. When it comes time to change your password, you can either change the order, n1cg0do37 (nic god 037), or move on to another part of the words: f@TdMbt3C (fat dmb t3c)

Last Published 12/18/15