Password Tips for a Safer Web

The hassle of managing passwords is a side effect if the digital revolution that I could do without. Password problems have long been on my mind, and yesterday’s  “catastrophic  breach” of internet security due to a bug called Heartbleed is just the kick in the butt I needed to tighten up my passwords.

Heartbleed Bug

Being in the web design business, I often have to access clients passwords. Now, I think most of my clients are pretty clever folks. But despite that, a large proportion of them use remarkably predictable passwords  – usually some combination of pets or children’s names, a birthday/year and possibly an exclamation point. At first, I assumed they were all giving me their lightweight passwords, but over the years, I’ve abandoned that theory and decided that we’re all just pretty lazy when it comes to online security.

We install security systems for our homes and cars, but protect our personal correspondence and banking details with “fluffy123!.” I’ve been just as guilty at times, and it isn’t hard to understand why. It seems that every website I visit has new criteria for their passwords. For a while it thought I’d figured it. I had come up with the perfect password, I could remember it easily, and had just the right combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters!  Of course, my smug password pride was soon dashed when some stupid site rejected it for too being too long! Can’t a girl get a break?

Baring an international programmer treaty on password standardization, we’ve got to do a better job, and I’ve stumbled upon a little trick that I’d like to share. So here it is,

Wendy’s tip for setting secure and memorable passwords:

Make your passwords as irrelevant as possible. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds.

Make up a sentence. It can be as crazy or as boring as you like, but be sure to include a number and a proper noun. For example:

The password “J&Kjo2ph” seems quite tricky until you realize that each character is the 1st letter, number or symbol for a word from a memorable sentence. I capitalize proper nouns and use symbols where they make sense. So in my mind, J&Kjo2ph is actually, “Jeremy and Kai  jumped over 2 purple hippos.”  That’s easy for me to remember since my husband is called Jeremy, my son is Kai, and we’ve got a couple of plastic hippos lying around (ah, motherhood!)

You can make it personal, of course. And you may as well have fun with it. Every time I change my password, I try to settle on one that will make me chuckle. (There’s nothing like that strange look from a stranger in a coffee shop when you chuckle at your computer screen. )

LastPass

LastPass is a free, secure password manager that stores all of your usernames and passwords in one safe place. When you log in to a website, LastPass will enter the username and password for you. LastPass saves users time by making it more convenient to log-in on websites. Also, it safeguards your data with strong encryption algorithms and multi-factor authentication. Here are a few of our favorite features of LastPass:

  • Generates new passwords for you
  • Shows how strong your passwords are
  • Synchronizes your password database between the different devices you use (i.e. your phone, iPad, PC, etc)
  • Allows you to share passwords with others

How to Create a Strong Password

Here’a quick video from Google with a few more tips.

What tricks do you have for keeping track of all those pesky passwords? I’d love to know in the comments.