In today’s world, keeping your online identity safe is a major concern, especially for those of us who spend money online. Here’s some ideas from the Girls Are Geeks Mothership on keeping your passwords safe.
The words of the Mothership:
In this age of electronics, computers, social media sites, online shopping (MY favorite), banking, and identity theft, it is important to know that your access to these modern marvels is secure. However, coming up with secure passwords is mind-boggling (“…must be 8-16 alpha-numeric characters, at least one of which must be a number, mixing UPPER and lower case letters, and without using any symbols such as # $ %….”). Then, even more difficult, you must remember which password you used for what. Making that task even more monumental comes when you work somewhere that requires you to change your password every 6 weeks, without using any of the last 3 passwords you most recently used.
My method is to use a system of synonyms and a unique, easy-to-remember numbering scheme. In this way, you can rotate through a variety of passwords, and still be able to remember them. Just follow these steps:
1. Come up with a synonym list that you will remember (as any Geek knows, a synonym is a word that has a similar meaning to another word, such as “couch, sofa, divan”) Nouns* work best but verbs*, adverbs* or adjectives* can also be used.
You get the idea…..get creative and generate a list of at least 5-6 words that you will remember by their association with each other, and, yet, are not actually associated with you.
2. Adding a number
Therefore, my suggestion is to use two or three numbers that YOU will remember, but that are NOT associated with you directly. An easy way to remember numbers is to use only a couple of your “favorite” one, two or three-digit numbers (come on, everyone has favorite numbers!) in a rotating scheme.
If you really don’t have any favorite, easily remembered numbers, you can choose numbers from your past but be careful that these numbers cannot be found easily (such as your first phone number or old address).
3. Sufficient length
My way is to consider the following:
You can extend your list by spelling those same words from your synonym list backwards, or repeating them in your code (couch72couch or sofa55afos for example), In this way, you can develop a longer list without having to remember more words, and your password codes will be sufficiently long to meet the requirements of a more secure password.
Finally, many sites, especially places of employment or banks, will offer you a way to give yourself “hints” when you still cannot remember which password you used for that site. Hints will be questions to which you should easily know the answers, such as “first pet”, “mother’s maiden name” or “hometown”. You need to answer these questions without compromising your security by actually using the real answers that someone else could come up if they know you or have access to your personal information somehow (such as stealing your wallet, finding your online profile, or just knowing you a little too well). Yet, you need to remember your answers.
The way hints work, if you can put in the correct answer to the hint, you will be given your actual password. My rule here is to develop one answer to each question that YOU will remember, but that is not the actual answer to the question. Then always put that answer in when presented with the opportunity to set up these hints. Using hint answers that you can remember, but that cannot actually be associated with you, or found from your actual personal data, is a very secure way of setting up these hints.
For example, for your first pet, rather than using your actual pet’s name, you can use another animal that you will remember when you see that hint, such as “porcupine” or “Lassie”. Your actual hometown could be replaced with the town from a favorite book or TV show, such as “Sunnydale” (OK, I am not a Buffy fan, but I know one) or “Smallville”. Your mother’s actual maiden name could be replaced with the name of a favorite character in a book, such as “O’Hara” or “Kent”.
KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetie)!