At the end of last week Twitter announced it had been attacked by hackers and that up to 250,000 accounts could have been affected. The company reset passwords on those accounts as a safety measure, but this high-profile hacking case serves as an important reminder about password safety.
While nothing may stop a determined hacker, by creating strong passwords you’ll, at the very least, not be easy pickings. Here are some quick tips:
1. Make your password long—at least 8 characters.
2. Consider adding complexity to your passwords by using upper and lower case letters, punctuation, symbols and numbers. But, hacking software will often check for common letter-to-symbol conversions like “and” as “&” or “to” to “2.”
3. Change your passwords often. Consider putting a reminder on your calendar to update your passwords (especially on key accounts like your bank or credit cards) every three months. Also, set up passwords on Monday, not Friday (so you won’t forget it over the weekend).
4. Don’t use the same password for everything. Hackers steal passwords from Web sites that don’t have a lot of security so they can gain passwords that might work on other, more secure places, such as banking Web sites.
5. Don’t use the names of pets, spouses, or children as your passwords. This information is easy for hackers to find so they’ll start with those names first.
If remembering your passwords for all your favorite web sites seems daunting, consider subscribing to a password manager. There are a variety of web-based password services, many of which are free, such as LastPass, KeePass , 1Password, SplashID, or Roboform that will encrypt your password database and give you the only key in the form a master password only you know.