How to Remember Your Passwords

TypeYou’ve got more than one e-mail account and each one needs a password. You’ve got accounts on dozens of websites and each of these requires a password.   Some websites even make you change your password every few weeks. With so many passwords you may have trouble remembering them all.  Whatever you do, however, don’t fall into any of these common traps:

Don’t use the same password for every website.  Hackers are everywhere on the web and they’re looking for accounts and websites to break into.  When they come across someone uninformed enough to be using the same password on every site, they’ve struck gold. Once they figure out how to get into one of your accounts, they can get into all of them.

Don’t use something obvious.  Everyone uses their name, their birthdate, their children’s names, their children’s birthdates, their social security number or their significant other’s personal information as passwords.  These are too easy to guess, particularly if the hacker knows you, and much of this information can be found in online public records or in your social networking profiles.

Don’t assume that your e-mail account doesn’t need a tough-to-crack password because there’s nothing all that important among your e-mail messages.  For most people, that’s just not true.  Many people receive invoices online and those invoices often contain account numbers and other personal information.  Even if you don’t get bank statements or invoices e-mailed to you, you’ve probably had to have a password e-mailed to you because you forgot it.  If those password-reminder messages are lying around in your inbox, archived in a folder, or in your deleted items waiting to be permanently removed, a hacker who gets into your poorly protected e-mail account can find them.  Or, they can arrange to have a password reminder e-mailed to you and then log into your account and get it.  Also, don’t forget about sensitive information that clients sometimes e-mail to you.  Those items may be in your inbox as well.

Don’t write your passwords on notes that you leave taped to your computer or in your desk drawer.  Yes, many people still do that and of course it defeats the purpose of password protecting your accounts.

If you need to create a good password that you’ll be able to remember, try using a mnemonic device.  That is, make a password out of the first letters of a sentence or a phrase you will remember.  If the phrase is “I pledge allegiance to the flag”, you can use the first letters of the words to create the password ipattf.

Or perhaps you can easily remember the stops of the computer train you used to ride to work:  59th Street, South Shore, Bryn Mawr, Windsor Park, 79th Street.  Turned into a password they become 59sbw79.  This one, by the way, is even better than the previous one we created because this one contains numbers as well as letters.

The possibilities are endless—Bible verses, poems you know by heart, the words to your favorite song, the starting lineup for the 1962 New York Yankees!  Anything you know by heart but would be unrecognizable to someone else can be turned into an easy to remember password.  Use something that is ongoing or that there is more than one of and when you’re required to change the password, simply go on to another item on the list.  For example, if you were using the Pledge of Allegiance and you needed to change your password, you would go on to the next phrase:  “…and to the Republic for which it stands….”  The password would be a2tR4wis.

To make it a really strong password, it should be at least 6-8 characters in length and should include numbers, letters—both upper and lower case—and special characters (e.g., “@”, “*”, “!”).