How to come up with better passwords to keep your information safe

Last year wasn't a good year for online privacy and security. Yahoo revealed that it had been seriously hacked, again, as was LinkedIn and Tumblr, putting hundreds of millions of passwords on the market. Political parties were hacked and even the NSA suffered major data breaches. It's a worrisome time as hackers become more aggressive and more of our private information is stored online.

If you haven't set aside the time to update your passwords, let the new year be your motivation to make your internet accounts more secure. If you use the same passwords for multiple sites, a hack into any of them could put the others at risk. While no password is fully hack-proof there are ways to make it much more difficult.

First, consider a password manager. Applications like LastPass or 1Password let you use one master password to unlock all of your accounts while automatically generating and encrypting strong passwords for each account and storing them for you. This is much easier than coming up with and then having to remember unique passwords for each site you use and is safer because the encryption algorithms disguise your passwords further.

If you'd rather not use a third-party app, another option for Apple users is to let Safari generate unique, strong passwords and store them in iCloud Keychain. The passwords generated are long, complicated and encrypted when stored in the cloud. They are accessible on every device logged in to your iCloud account so that you don't have to remember them.

If a site or service you use allows two-factor authentication, make sure to enable it. This extra layer of security requires confirmation of a code sent by text message or, on applicable devices, fingerprint verification before logging in. The second step means hackers would have to have access to your phone or fingerprint as well as your password to get anywhere.

xkcd passwordxkcd/CC BY-NC 2.0

If you prefer to keep it old school and come up with and store all of your passwords on your own, remember these key things: always create unique passwords for each site you use and make sure the password includes a long string of random characters and symbols and doesn't just spell the name of your cat. Another option is to come up with a string of random words like "correct horse battery staple" as illustrated in the comic above. You can use a random password generator to create these strong passwords for you and then store them in whatever way you like.

Tags: Technology

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