Update: More than 2 million passwords from sites including Facebook, Google and Yahoo! were stolen by hackers, according to a report released this week from cyber-security firm Trustwave. Their researchers tracked the passwords to a server in the Netherlands on November 24 and notified the impacted companies. However the hackers may still be swiping passwords, using other servers. The following article originally ran last year after a similar breach involving LinkedIn accounts.
High-profile hacking scandals remind consumers how tricky and unsafe the Internet can be. But, we shouldn’t wait for information to be stolen from us before we make an effort to protect it.
Most people, Internet-savvy or not, would probably agree that keeping up with a variety of passwords -- with every website or institution’s specific set of password rules -- isn’t easy. And that can create a lot of problems for a lot of people. An analysis done by The Tech Herald, after AntiSec supporters published a list of encrypted passwords on the Internet, points out how quickly regular old computers and easily downloadable software can hack into “secure” systems.
But the answer isn’t necessarily to make all of your passwords as complicated as possible. Sure, it’s a bit scary to think about remembering a different password for all of the various accounts you access on a regular basis -- especially when each one requires you to use upper and lower case letters, a number, a symbol, your first cat’s name and a foreign language.
But these may not be the most secure passwords after all. It may come as a surprise, but using keywords and phrases that are easy to remember may be more secure than a random jumble of letters and numbers resembling the result of sitting on your keyboard. For example, a report by security expert Thomas Baekdal about hacking systems and password safety showed “this is fun” to be 10 times more secure as a password than “J4fS<2.” And although your passwords don’t have to be as complicated as you may have thought, there are some key safety tips to keep in mind, like length and using more personal keywords and phrases. Who would have thought -- that weird thing your grandmother once said may be the best way to keep your accounts safe!
Money-saving expert Clark Howard says it's imperative to come up with safe passwords in order to protect yourself online. And there are plenty of tools that will help you do this. There are random password generators online and sites like How Secure is my Password that help you keep your information safe and secure. So once you make all of these super-complicated passwords, how are you supposed to remember all of them?! Good news. There are free online managers that will keep track of all of your passwords for you. Here are a few examples and you can check out each site for more information.
1Password doesn't provide anywhere, anytime, any platform access to your password data, but it's easy to use. This application allows users to synchronize passwords with a Windows machine at work (or at home) and an iPhone you take on the go. 1Password supports the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Palm and Android phones. To back up and synchronize your data you'll need to set up an account with Dropbox, which is an online storage service. Dropbox gives you up to 2GB of storage for free, which should be plenty for password data. Dropbox creates a folder on each computer and then synchronizes among them. Configuring 1Password with Dropbox is pretty simple, just check out the site for details on how to get started.
Once the application is installed and configured, LastPass is easy to use. LastPass keeps a copy of your data on any Windows, Mac or Linux machine. The application gives users access to all its features using a single icon that lives on your browser navigation bar. But one thing to note, you have to download a separate version of the application for each additional browser you want to use with LastPass.
This application is easy to use and allows users to organize their records in folders. The program comes with a sample database with folders for contacts, credit cards, software, notes, and websites, but users can easily create their own custom folders for their own data. For each record, users can enter a title, username, account name, URL, and password. The program will also track when each entry was created and modified, and by whom. Free Password Manager can be used on your computer or on a portable device like a USB drive.
EverPassword allows users to save an unlimited amount of passwords for free on all of the application's supported platforms including iPhone/iPad/iPod, Windows Applications, Mac Applications and Web Browsers. The application can even be used without an Internet connection. You log in using a master password, but be aware that EverPassword doesn't store a copy of that password anywhere. The program will help you remember with the "Password hint" you enter when you create the account, but if for some reason you cannot recover the password, you can reset your account by contacting customer service. That will erase all of your previous data to allow you to start over.