Do you remember the good old days when you could use one password for every online account and feel safe doing it? Times have changed, but many people’s password habits have not. According to security company Telesign, 54 percent of people use five or fewer passwords across their entire online life. And some (estimates vary between 30 and 50 percent) continue to use only one password for all online accounts.
Do yourself a favor and follow these five password best practices to improve your digital security.
1. Create strong passwords
Do away with the “123456” password (mostly commonly used password in 2016) and use one that is a combination of upper and lower case, symbols and numbers. Use a minimum of eight characters; 12-16 is best. Never use personal information like your pet’s name or your street, birthdate, etc.
2. Use unique passwords
Repeat after me: unique passwords for unique accounts. One compromised password can be used to login to multiple accounts. Consider using phrases or sentences combined with numbers and symbols.
3. Get a password manager
Not sure you can keep up with all those unique passwords? A password manager, like Keeper or Lastpass, will not only securely store your passwords but also create random, unique passwords for your accounts. You will need to remember one master password for the manager program. Not sure which one to use? Check out this review of password managers by PC Magazine.
If you’re not ready for an online app or program like a password manager, paper and pencil still work. Consider using a single notebook, not random sticky notes by your computer, and keep the notebook in a secure location.
4. Lock down your login
Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts. By using multi-factor authentication (biometrics, security keys or unique one-time codes), you can fortify your account security. How does it work? Some services offer you an opportunity to verify your identity before logging into an account through a one-time code that you receive through a text message or phone call.
5. Share with a trusted contact
Have a plan for allowing a trusted family member or friend to access your digital accounts should you become incapacitated or die. This could be as simple as sharing the master password to your password manager program or the secure location of your password notebook. Or take it to the next level by creating up a digital estate plan and naming a digital executor.