With computers being a ubiquitous presence in our lives these days, we have become more efficient in many ways and certainly more connected. The advent of wireless computing made most Americans even more dependent upon computers, as cell phones, tablets and e-readers are now staples of most peoples’ lives. There is, however, a flip side to every coin, and the flip side to our reliance on computers and the internet is a greatly increased vulnerability to various forms of fraud and identity theft. Making the criminals’ task easier is the tendency of many people to use passwords are that painfully easy for hackers to figure-out. With increasing use of computers and internet programs came increasing use of passwords to access accounts and programs. As computer users became more reliant on these accounts and programs, they became over-burdened with having to memorize so many passwords, and simplified their lives by choosing passwords that diligent hackers can easily identify.
Which brings us to the task of meeting the hackers’ challenge by making it harder for them to figure-out our passwords. The key to complicating the life of the hackers is to avoid using sign-in information that is easily identifiable with the individual. Using one’s name, spouse or children’s’ names, or the birth- or anniversary dates of family members is a sure way of making it easier for a criminal to determine your password. Similarly, using the family pet’s name is a bad idea. This educator has sat at other peoples’ desks and successfully figured out their passwords by looking at the photographs of their family members on their shelves (an exercise done for the purpose of demonstrating their vulnerability to hacking). When choosing sign-in information, do your best to select a word or name that is not associated with you – basically, choose a random word with no connection to you personally – along with symbols and numbers that similarly have no meaning to you or anybody in your life. The combination of random words, numbers and symbols, with randomly chosen letters capitalized, is the best system for securing your computer.
It is important to keep in mind that even the best passwords can be hacked, so changing your password regularly is also key. There is no question that this is inconvenient and complicated, but if computer security is the goal, there is no alternative.