BBB Asks: Are Your Passwords Secure?

March 03, 2014

When was the last time you changed you passwords? Months? Years? Never? If you answered yes to any of these questions, now’s the time to change your passwords and protect your personal information.

Changing your password is even more critical if your password is “123456.”

Why? Splash Data ranked “123456” as the most popular password of 2013. Rounding out the top 10: password, 12345678, qwerty, abc123, 123456789, 111111, 1234567, and Iloveyou.

Experts recommend changing passwords at least every six months with every three months being the gold standard. There are several reasons for this. First, passwords are often stolen without our knowledge and second, stolen passwords often aren't used immediately.

Instead, they're collected, sold to organized crime, rebundled and resold, and often left untouched for long periods of time. Even if you're not aware your password was stolen, if you’re in the habit of changing it periodically, there’s a good chance you will have changed it before a thief has an opportunity to use it.

Changing your password is not difficult. Neither is changing your weak password (12345) into a strong password with a mixture of numbers, uppercase letters, lower case letters and symbols.

Create a password that resonates with you. A common suggestion is to take a sentence or phrase that you know well, from a song or book you enjoy. For example, this sentence from Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series of children’s books: “Frog and Toad agreed: it was a perfect day for a swim.” Take the first letter of each word and you get FaTa:iwapdfas. Need to throw in a numeral? Pick your favorite and insert it where it makes sense for you.

Do you need to have a separate password for all of your online accounts? Opinions differ. Some experts say if you have one strong password – seven or eight characters with a mix of letters, numerals and symbols – it should be good enough. Others say that’s foolhardy and that you should have different passwords for all of your accounts. Use your best judgment when considering how many passwords to create and how you will keep track if you have multiple passwords.

Experts recommend to not write passwords down- not even in our own homes- for fear they will be stolen. Identity theft, many times, is done by someone we know. Bottom line, make sure your passwords are strong and memorable and remember to change them often.

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