In this guide, we’re looking closer at five password habits that are putting you or your business at risk. Your passwords act as the first line of defense for more than just online accounts; they protect your finances, personal and social life, and so much more. It’s time to start taking passwords more seriously.
1. Improper Storage
The first mistake a lot of people make is storing their passwords in a location that’s unsecured. For instance, if you write all of your passwords down in a notebook, on a sheet of paper, or stored on your computer somewhere, you’re making a huge mistake. These things are far from secure. All someone would need is your computer password to find all of your other passwords! And if someone found your long-lost notebook in the trash, or you accidentally left it in the library, you’d be in big trouble.
2. Recycling Passwords
The second biggest mistake that people make, and perhaps the worst in terms of the number of people who do it, is recycling passwords. How many of your personal accounts do you use the same password for? Two? Three? All of them? Or are you among the thin margin of people that don’t ever recycle their passwords?
- Recycled passwords are much more vulnerable, because all you need to do is figure out one password to access several accounts
- Recycled passwords often contain personal information, making them more vulnerable
- You might be saving time now, but a breach will cost you thousands of dollars and possibly hours of time re-securing your information.
The bottom line? Don’t recycle passwords.
3. Sharing Passwords
Have you ever shared a password with a loved one or significant other? While we’d like to think we can always trust these kinds of people with such information, there are times when relationships turn sour. The best practice is to never share a password. It seems pessimistic to just assume that the people you love could potentially abuse the privilege, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Imagine having a great relationship with a significant other that turns sour, and they have access to bank accounts, Netflix accounts and ,more. Can you imagine the stress of knowing someone who you no longer speak to has access to bank information?
Don’t share passwords. If you can, create a guest account or separate account entirely.
4. Using Personal Information
This is truly a sigh-worthy habit, because by now, everyone should know that you’re not supposed to use personal information like birthdays, anniversaries, and addresses in your passwords. Sadly, some people simply ignore that fact, and many passwords contain this and other self-identifying information. What’s so dangerous about that, anyway?
Information like birthdays and addresses can be found in public records with a simple internet search. Once a hacker has some basic information, they might be able to piece together a password. And, if you’re one of the millions of people that recycle passwords, you could just be putting all of your accounts at risk.
Don’t ever use personal or company information in passwords. They should be completely random whenever possible, and at least eleven characters long.
5. Not Maintaining Passwords
You didn’t think good passwords begin and end with creating strong combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols, did you? Passwords require maintenance as well. They grow old, need changed, or become compromised. Not maintaining your passwords is a quick way to shoot yourself in the foot and compromise your accounts.
Be sure to change all of your passwords at least a few times per year. You don’t have to be as disciplined as the 90-day password crowd, but it can’t hurt to change passwords frequently. Just be sure you’re using a password manager so you don’t lose track!
The Bottom Line
Password habits can be improved with a few simple steps, but you have to remember that just creating passwords isn’t enough. You need to use the right tools, maintain your passwords, and watch for suspicious activity. Your passwords are your responsibility, and it’s high time all of us took that responsibility more seriously.