How safe is your password

The bad news for many internet users is that their passwords are probably far from safe. By choosing passwords that are easy as pie for hackers to "crack", and also by storing passwords in an unsafe manner, millions of web users are laying themselves open to massive fraud.

Don't fall victim to password hackers

The scale of the internet hacker problem is far beyond the comprehension of many ordinary members of the public. These regular folks are clueless when it comes to constructing safe passwords, plus they have no idea of how easy it would be for a top class hacker to find out what their passwords are.

Many ordinary people think it is okay to use their name as their password, or even just the word "password" itself. Another popular gambit for password novices is to use their date of birth, perhaps combined with their name. Yet another top choice is a simple number like "123" or "999". The people who use the kinds of passwords just described do not realize that hackers are wise to these foolish methods, and also that there are software tools that can "sniff out" such commonplace, weak as water passwords in a heartbeat.

Having one's passwords hacked can result in embarrassment - when unauthorized postings start appearing all over your Facebook page, for example, or they can be a whole lot more serious, particularly when money is involved. Did you even stop to think what could happen if a fraudster gained access to your PayPal account or your online bank account? All your money would be siphoned out in seconds! This is why the matter of safe passwords is nothing to laugh about and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Tips on constructing good passwords

As mentioned already, you should never use names or birthdays for your passwords, because they are easy to guess. You might think your birthday is not widely known, but does it appear on your Facebook page for all to see?

Basic security is afforded by passwords consisting of unique combinations of words, preferably avoiding popular references that could be guessed. However, it should be noted that passwords consisting only of letters of the alphabet are far from being completely safe. They can be "cracked" with relative ease, especially if the password only has about half a dozen characters in total. A longer password of about ten or twelve letters is a better way to go.

Even better is to incorporate numbers into the password. These should preferably appear in odd places, not at the end or beginning of a word. Password security is all about making the combination of numbers and characters not only almost impossible to guess but hard for a computer program to identify as well. To achieve this goal, it is a good idea to make as long a password as possible, and to have it contain letters of the alphabet, numbers, and also special characters. A password constructed in this manner will be a mighty tough nut to bust for any hacker.

Once you create great passwords, make sure you protect them

Some people congratulate themselves for constructing a top notch password, but then they fail to protect it in the appropriate manner. The most secure password in the world can turn straight away to one that's easy to "crack" if you leave it lying around where prying eyes can see it. The best advice is not to write down your passwords, because you never know who might read what you have written down.

Now, some people will want to know how they can keep a record of their passwords in case they forget them. This is a valid concern, because passwords constructed using the methods described above are usually far from easy to remember. But, writing down your passwords in a notebook and keeping it by your computer is a potentially grave error. After all, a thief could break in while you are out and steal your computer and the helpful little notebook full of passwords. For this reason, at the very least you should keep any such notebook or crib sheet far away from your computer and preferably well hidden.

If you feel you need a password crib sheet, you should write it out cautiously. You should not, for example, write down the name of the website followed by the user ID and the password. The information needs to be written down in such a way that it provides you with a handy hint but does not give the game away to a ruthless thief.

Furthermore, it is extremely unwise to ever disclose important internet passwords to people you know. You may think that someone has your back, but what if you should ever fall out? When friends become mortal enemies, you don't want them to be in possession of your vital passwords. For a start, they could change the passwords and lock you out of your accounts, just for a laugh. In the worst case scenario, they could steal all your money. The easy solution is never to divulge your passwords in the first place.

As well as not writing down passwords, and not disclosing them to all and sundry, you would be wise not to store passwords on your computer, just in case the computer goes walkies. Many people make use of the facility provided by all popular browsers, which allows users to store passwords for a raft of websites as part of the program preferences.

The advantage for the user is that storing the password with the browser settings allows "one click" login to one's favorite websites and web-based services. While this is an undoubted time-saver and removes the need to memorize any passwords, it also opens up a gigantic can of worms. If your computer was ever stolen, the thief would be able to gain access to your various accounts without entering any passwords. In the same way, room-mates and visitors to your residence get a window of opportunity to log in to your accounts, which once again can result in both embarrassment and financial loss.

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