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Advanced password tips and tricks

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Time to create another password? Make it a secure one. A little extra attention when you create a strong password can prevent an attacker from getting access to your account.

Your password should be long, complex, and unique. Here are additional steps you can take to help create strong passwords and secure your accounts: 

  • Avoid common words, phrases, or information. Don’t use information available to others like your birthday, phone number, or Social Security number. Attackers often use a dictionary of previously exposed passwords and information gathered from the internet to help them guess a password.
  • Change passwords quickly if there is a breach. Attackers who steal data from companies often obtain password information. If you receive a notification from a company about a possible breach, change that password and any account that uses a similar password immediately.
  • Consider a password manager. Most people have trouble keeping track of all their passwords. Consider storing your passwords and security questions in a password manager, an easy-to-access application that allows you store all your valuable password information in one place. Use a strong password to secure the information in your password manager. 

What about security questions? If you forget your password, many companies require you to answer security questions to regain access. Here are some tips to make sure an attacker can’t use your security questions as a way to get into your account: 

  • Select security questions where only you know the answer. Many security questions ask for answers to information available in public records or online, like your zip code, mother’s maiden name, birth place. That is information a motivated attacker can obtain.
  • Don’t use answers to security questions that can be guessed. An attacker can guess the answer to a security question that has a limited number of responses (dates, colors, states, countries). Avoid questions like “What state were you born in?” or “What color was your first car?” which allow an attacker to guess all possible answers.
  • Don’t give a generic answer to a security question. Find an answer to a security question that you will remember but is also more complicated than a generic word. For example, if the security question asks “What is your favorite childhood memory?” the answer “watching the Dodgers with my mom” is more secure than “baseball.”

Like these tips? Then check out more FTC information about computer security.


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Ive found that security question are a great oppurtunity for obfuscation, meaning making really easy questions like mother's maiden name, zip code your born in... but giving false answers so if for some reason there is a real motivated intruder then your answers would be even harder for them to figure out.

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Internet security has become too much of a good thing. Strong passwords, and the guidance for creating them, was once a great idea, but . . . . I am a retired computer systems support engineer; not really a security specialist, but it was a serious consideration when configuring new systems, and supporting existing ones. We used to say, "The worst password is the one that is so complicated that administrative personnel need to write it down on 'post-it' notes stuck on their monitors."

Like many others I find it absolutely essential to use a password vault to generate and maintain security information--at current count there are 349 entries in the vault. And guess what . . . except for something around a dozen or so, I couldn't care less if anyone gains access to the rest. I don't care if someone accesses my health information, or my login at Home Depot, or even that I served a year in Vietnam. I don't even care if someone wants to reserve a hotel room using my name at Holiday Inn. But I do care about my bank account, my brokerage account, and my credit card accounts--and that's about it.

The rest of these companies and government agencies could simply fire all of their pseudo security gurus and we would never know they were gone. After all, everyone that I went to high school with knows that my first girl friend's name was Donna, and that we went on our first date in a yellow Studebaker.

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