One thing you can be sure of is that there are people out there who would dearly love to know what your internet passwords are. Whether their curiosity is driven by a wish to fleece your online accounts of all the cash they contain, or they simply want to steal your online identity, is neither here nor there. The bottom line is that you must do everything in your power to safeguard and protect your passwords or you could pay one hell of a heavy price.
Password security - stage one in protecting yourself online
There are two major aspects to password security. The first of these is the matter of what passwords you use and how easy or hard they are for a hacker to "crack". The second aspect is how to stop your passwords falling into the hands of others, but we will cover that aspect later in this article.
To begin with, you should strive to come up with passwords that are not easy for Tom, Dick, or Harry to guess. Thus, you should never use something like "mypassword" as your actual password. Neither should you use your own name or simple numbers like "54321". All of these are easy as pie for someone to guess. In fact, hackers often use software programs that automatically check through lists of such simplistic passwords in the hopes of striking it lucky.
You would also be unwise to use your birthday or that of your spouse or children as a password. Although you might think that this kind of information is not widely known, you would be surprised. For a start, depending on the settings in place on your Facebook account, your birthday might be on display to the world!
It is a far better bet to use unique words or phrases that only you know about. If a word does refer to something other people might know about, you might want to take the precaution of deliberately misspelling it. In addition, it is always wise to incorporate numbers as well as letters of the alphabet into your passwords. Alphanumerical passwords, preferably quite long ones, will always be a tougher nut for any hacker to bust.
To make it even more difficult for others to crack your passwords, you could try adding special characters like dollar signs and pound signs etc. Any internet security expert you talk to will tell you the same thing, password security needs to be as tight as it can be in order to frustrate hackers and leave them scratching their heads in dismay.
Passwords - don't let them fall into the hands of others
Now, we must turn to the second aspect of password security. The bottom line with this is that even the most hacker-proof password is absolutely useless if you allow it to fall into the hands of unscrupulous people. For this reason, it is vital not to write down passwords in notebooks and crib sheets that prying eyes could chance upon. You may wonder, though, what you should do if you are unable to easily memorize a raft of complicated alphanumerical passwords.
This is the nub of the problem: If you use the proper methods when selecting passwords for use on many different websites, you may be unable to remember such long, counterintuitive passwords with any kind of ease. Clearly one might need a prompt or two, but how should this be accomplished without making the data vulnerable to thieves and untrustworthy friends, relatives, and associates?
The answer is to create hints and prompts for yourself, rather than writing out the full password. Just as websites use so-called memorable questions to prompt users who may have had a temporary lapse of memory concerning their passwords, you can use the same strategy yourself. That way, any thief will be left none the wiser should they come across this type of crib sheet.
Don't store your passwords with your browser settings
It is very common for popular internet browsers to offer users the chance to store their passwords as part of the program settings. Thus, it is possible to get into Facebook or some other site with just one click of the mouse, because the password has been stored from a previous visit to the site. While this is a feature that appears to offer internet users huge advantages in terms of convenience and not having to memorize those all-important passwords, it is also one that fills hackers hearts with joy. That's because it offers them the possibility of snagging all the saved passwords if they can hijack the browser via some exploit or another.
While anti-virus and firewall software usually does a grand job of protecting internet users from such exploits, the fact remains that you are never one hundred percent safe on the web, so it pays to pass up the invitation to store your passwords with your browser settings, just in case disaster should strike.
Furthermore, it is always possible that your computer could be stolen in an old-fashioned burglary or heist, which would mean the new "owner" of the machine would gain instant access to all your stored passwords. This could include online banking sites plus PayPal, as well as sites like Amazon, where substantial purchases can be made via stored passwords combined with stored credit card information.
In view of all the above, it is extremely unwise to use the option to store passwords as part of your browser settings. While turning this feature off will necessitate that you punch in your password each and every time you visit a website, the peace of mind you will gain from knowing that your passwords are not stored is certainly worth having.
Never trust anyone with your passwords
Our final warning is that you should not give out passwords to friends and relatives. While you may believe these people will not take advantage of the information you have confided in them, you just never know. For example, you may fall out with a friend or former partner, with the result that they turn against you. If such an event were to occur, you wouldn't want that new-found enemy to have access to your passwords. It pays, therefore, to be exceedingly cautious where internet passwords are concerned.