Your password is more than just a key to your computer or online account. It is a gateway to all of your important information. If your password falls into the wrong hands, a cyber criminal can impersonate you online, access your bank or credit card accounts, sign your name to online service agreements or contracts, engage in financial transactions, or change your account information.
Unfortunately, many users are still not taking the necessary steps to protect their accounts by using strong passwords. Far too often, passwords with simple combinations such as 123456, password, qwerty, or abc123 are being used. In other cases, people simply use their pet’s name or their birth date -- information that can be easily found online, such as on a Facebook or genealogy page.
Cyber criminals have developed programs that automate the ability to guess your passwords. To protect yourself, passwords must be difficult for others to guess but at the same time easy for you to remember. Here are some recommendations:
- Passwords should have at least eight characters and include upper case
(capital letters) and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
- Avoid words and proper names, regardless of language. Hackers use programs that try every word in a dictionary.
- Don't use personal information -- name, children's name, birthdates, etc. that
someone might already know or easily obtain.
- Change passwords regularly -- at least every 60 days. If you believe your system, or an online account you access, has been compromised change your passwords immediately.
- Use different passwords for each account you have.
- Make sure your work passwords are different from your personal passwords.