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Are Your Online Accounts Secure? 5 Tips for Making Sure

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Submitted by Greg Miller from CMIT Solutions of Goshen NY on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Screen-shot-2011-06-22-at-8.50.33-AMIf you are working with a good managed service provider, then you should already be in good shape, or at least on the path, to having proper security for your business network. But there is one aspect of security that only you can do for yourself: strong passwords for your network and internet accounts.

What is a strong password? A strong password is a truly random set of characters at least 8 digits long (longer is better). And these characters should be a mix of letters (upper case and lower case), numbers and special characters. A strong password makes it virtually impossible for a person, or program, to guess your password, except by trying for many, many hours.

I typed “password” into Google, and it actually suggested “password cracker” as the 5th highest option.  If you execute that search you will see dozens of pages of password crackers available for free or very low cost. Good password crackers can crack any password with 7 or fewer characters in mere seconds.

Now think about how safe (or not) your online banking password is.
And I don’t know about you, but hardly a day goes by where I don’t receive an email, or a Facebook request, from an acquaintance who just had their account hacked. The reality is, there are lots of people trying to hack into your network and internet accounts, and if you are not smart about your passwords, then it is only a matter of time before you become a victim.

Statistics show that the most common password used is “123456”. The word “password” is not far behind at #3. Anyone want to guess how long it takes a hacker to get into those accounts? Even with being creative and using your favorite song and mixing in some numbers and special characters, a good password cracker will determine your password in seconds.

The only reliable way to be truly safe is to use a truly random password that contains 8 or more characters. And it is also best to use a different password for every account. But it is not humanly possible to manage this without writing all those strong passwords down, which also is not advised. So what are we poor humans to do?

My recommendation is that everyone should use password management software. I personally use RoboForm Everywhere ($9.95 for the 1st year, $19.95 per year after that). RoboForm Everwhere synchronizes my passwords across my multiple computers that I use. There are other good options such as LastPass and KeePass.

The important points are:
1. Let the software generate strong passwords of 8 characters or more for you.

2. The software will remember the passwords for you and store them safely.

3. Use a different password for every web site.

4. Password management software will even protect you from keystroke loggers and phishing attempts. If you get to a fake web site imitating a legitimate web site, the password management software will not recognize the site, and therefore will not provide the credentials to log in.

5. Be sure to set a strong password for you master password. This is the keys to the kingdom so the master password absolutely needs to be strong. But that is the only password that you need to remember.

Using a password manager makes it possible, even easy, to have a different strong password for every account. No more worrying about creating a strong password and remembering it. And with this also comes the peace of mind that all of your accounts are safe. Don’t delay – run, don’t walk, to the nearest password manager download, and start using it today.

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