Protecting yourself on the internet: the basics of password maintenance

RBC | Protecting yourself on the internet can appear to be a rather daunting tasks but if you’ll follow some simple steps, you very well may prevent yourself from becoming a victim. This is the first of a series of articles that will get you started in the right direction. One thing that everyone needs to understand right from the start: there are no guaranteed solutions to internet security. You can take all the security measures possible and still get hacked. And if you think you’re so obscure that the hackers won’t bother messing with you, think again. They don’t care where you live or how little you shop online. All they’re looking for is an opportunity to take advantage of what you have (or what your identity can provide). The most important thing to remember is that every time you apply a security measure (regardless of how simple they may seem), you reduce your risk of being exploited in some way.

When it comes to doing any kind of transaction on the internet, your first line of defense is your password. Whether you’re logging into your online banking site or ordering a gift on Amazon, your password is what helps keep the hackers at bay. It’s not the only thing you should focus on, but it’s the easiest part of any security system to exploit. Here’s a few helpful hints on how to make it harder for hackers:

Passwords are like underwear… They work best when changed often. Yes, it’s a pain the backside to have to remember all those passwords, but keep reading… There will be some tips on ways to set up your password so you will always remember it, provided you stay diligent and follow the system.

No easy passwords allowed. If it’s easy for you to remember, it’ll be easy for a bad guy to guess. Stay away from things like family names, pet names, football team names, etc. A password can be complex without being hard to remember.

Don’t use the same password for everything. If a bad guy successfully gets your password and your password is the same on every site you log into, then they’ve successfully gained access to every site you log into.

Don’t write down your password… ever. If a bad guy is motivated enough, they will even go through your trash looking for that random sticky-note with a password written on it. If you feel like you need to store your passwords somewhere, don’t put them all in a Word document or text file and store it on your computer or phone. Consider a “password vault” or password management system that stores your login ID’s and passwords safely.

Here are some tips on how to maintain a complex password with frequent changes and still be able to remember it when you need it:

Pick a word that you’ll always remember. I’ll use “OrangeJuice” as an example. Notice that the O and J are capitalized. That’s important to remember because it adds to the complexity. Next, use the number of the current month (i.e. 5). Then spell out the month itself (i.e. May). Now combine them all together (OrangeJuice5May) and you have a password that you can remember. The key is to be diligent about changing your password every month.

Implement letter/number substitution. For example, the letter E in reverse looks kind of like a 3. Using our previous example, replace all the E’s with 3’s. Orang3Juic35May. You can get very creative and replace O’s with zeroes, I’s with ones, H’s with fours, etc.

Implement “special characters.” Some websites will allow any character on your keyboard as part of your password and some only allow certain “special characters.” If allowed, try using something like two slashes in front and behind your already complex password. \\0rang3Ju1c35May// is a really complex password, but it’s a good example. Even something as simple as adding an exclamation mark at the end of your password will help. OrangeJuice5May!

Next week’s article will be about how the hackers go Phishing, how to spot a scam email and what to do (or not do) with it.


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