Tom’s Tech Tips

Tom’s Tuesday Tech Tip: How to Create and Remember Secure Passwords in an Unsecure World

In last Tuesday’s Tech Tip I discussed the need for strong or “hardened” passwords. As I’ve said before, and will say again today, too many people use the same too simple password for too many website logins too many times. In short, a lot of legal nurse consultants are using the same password for PayPal®, eBay® and First Crushing Debt Bank online banking sites as you use for your gmail. It’s time for this to end – today.

Before we get to passwords, do one of these two things to remember them:

  1. Purchase a password management program like Roboform, install it and get ready to start storing the passwords you’ll create later; or
  2. Get out a yellow (or white) legal pad and start making a list of all the sites you visit and their new passwords (we’ll create new ones next). Here’s a helpful hint – when you make your list of passwords, don’t type it and keep it on any computer connected to the Internet. Instead, keep it in a folder in a file clearly marked so that when you pass onto that final National Alliance of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants Conference in the sky, your family will be able to find those passwords and clear out all your online banking accounts, take down your website and then cancel your SpaceBook, MyFace and online dating accounts, etc.

Okay, you’re all ready so let’s start. The key to any good password is that it can’t be so simple that it’s easy to guess. I know that’s not a real earth-shattering hint, but let me explain. Most people use simple passwords such as pet names, wedding/divorce dates or even (are you ready for this?) names spelled backwards. These are not hardened passwords.

Hardened passwords are a minimum of 8-characters long and include upper and lower case alphanumeric characters as well as special characters. Avoid using actual words or names. If you do, try and think like Prince and mix up numbers for letters as in LotusFlow3r. This is also known as leetspeak (many password cracking programs will try this).

A better way is to use a nonsense phrase that’s easy for you to remember and that also contains symbols, numbers and letters, for example: 98EC!#ab. Just don’t get lazy and only use the symbols and numbers that occupy the same key.

If you can remember long phrases and there’s no character limit in the password box, try using a password phrase and separate the words with characters such as lines: My_Mother_Drives_A_Passat (you’d never guess that one because she really drives a Rambler). You could even take a phrase from your favorite book (we*dont*rent*pigs), comic strip (Curse!You!Red!Baron) or graphic novel (Who+Watches+the+Watchmen).

Some Certified Legal Nurse Consultants will take a sentence and remember just the first letters from that sentence: “I must make a stronger password: today.” becomes “imMaSP:2D.” You can also combine words that are meaningful to you but not well known such as your high school mascot plus your nursing school: 606CATzA&m (Bobcats + A&M).

If you’re a legal nurse consultant working in an environment where you must change your passwords every couple of months (which is a really good idea) you can put a date in the password along with your nonsense word. SeptugenMom2009May becomes June2009SeptugenMom and keep changing it forward or backwards.

However you choose to create new passwords for your legal nurse consulting business-related websites, personal websites or even your computer login, don’t use simple variations (one letter or symbol change) on every website and never, ever tell anyone your password – especially when you’re using your cell-phone voice. If you do you’re just asking for trouble.

When you do hit an advanced age and begin forgetting your passwords, that legal pad really comes in handy (no master password to remember). You could also use a company that can help you unlock files that you’ve password protected and forgotten. (I’ve heard some are even trustworthy.)

Keep on techin’,

Tom

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