Computer Password Security

Passwords are the keys to your digital property. With computer password security you can keep cyber thieves at bay and your digital assets safe.

We use passwords to log into our computers and phones, access online web sites and services, check email and use social media. Passwords are the primary security method we have to protect access to our digital assets.

Just like good quality door locks improve the safety of your home, good computer password security strategy increases the safety of your digital property and protects your computer from cyber thieves who are constantly trying to steal your valuable information and data.

Secure vs. Insecure Passwords

Cyber bandits use advanced tools to automate brute force attacks that try to guess your passwords. They are getting more sophisticated all the time. It has never been more important to have good, hard-to-guess passwords.

Good passwords have many different types of characters, in addition to numbers, and are:

  • Long (at least 16 characters)
  • Have many different types of characters, in addition to numbers
  • Are difficult for you to remember
  • Are difficult for cyber thieves to guess
  • Are difficult for computers to break

For increased computer password security you should use a different password for each online web site and service. This is especially important when accessing your banks and financial institutions, and web sites that contain sensitive personal information like the social security website.

Read more about why insecure passwords put your data at risk.

But how do you remember long, hard-to-guess passwords?

Password Management

Good computer password security means you have to use good passwords. There is no way around this. If you don’t, you are more likely to have your passwords compromised and your computer or website account broken into.

Writing down good passwords on a piece of paper or a sticky note is a very bad idea. You cannot leave passwords in plain sight, even at home. And sooner or later, you are probably going to misplace the piece of paper on which you wrote down the password.

Password management software helps you manage your passwords in an easy and secure way. After you put all your passwords into the password management software, you don’t have to remember any of them.

The password management software is protected with its own password. To access all your other passwords that are stored inside the password management software, you only need to remember that one password.

Of course, you have to use a strong, hard-to-guess password, because this password keeps all your other passwords safe.

Mnemonic phrases can help you remember a password that is strong yet difficult for computers to break and for cyber thieves to guess.

For example, “I will always use Strong Passwords because they keep my Computer secure” becomes IwauSPbtkmCs. Then make it even stronger with a few numbers and special characters: %20IwauSPbtkmCs17%.

Still, such a password may not be easy to remember initially. Try to memorize it before you protect the password management software with it.

You also need a fail-safe. Write the password down on a piece of paper, put it inside an envelope, and seal the envelope. If you have a safe, put the envelope inside it. If not, hide it - but don’t forget where you put it!

Use the envelope with a security tint. If you can’t get one, then wrap a few sheets of paper around the piece of paper on which you wrote down the password, and put it all together inside the envelope. You don’t want someone lift the envelope towards the light and be able to read the password through the thin wall of a regular envelope.

Beyond Passwords

Using strong, hard-to-guess passwords greatly increases your computer password security. But don’t stop there, you can do even more.

Usernames

Two values usually define computer and online service accounts: username and password. For username, sometimes you have no choice, and you have to use your email, because the online service only accepts email usernames.

But sometimes you do have a choice, and can select any username you want, as long as it does not already exist. In cases like this, for extra security, create a random username instead of using your favorite one.

Random usernames add to your privacy and security because they make no sense to anyone. No one can look at your username and recognize you. Use a different random-generated username for each online service account.

There is no extra effort on your part. You are using a password manager and have long, strong and secure passwords that you don’t remember anyway. The password manager also stores usernames. Now you don’t have to remember your usernames or passwords.

Password Hints

Some computer or online accounts ask you to provide a password hint. Password hint is supposed to help you remember your password when you forget what it is.

Password hints are a bad security practice. By looking at your password hint, a cyber thief might be able to guess your password.

Password hints encourage creation of insecure passwords. You need to be able to describe your password if your password is a random string of characters, how do you describe it?

Don’t make your computer or online account less secure by having a password hint. Don’t make the cyber thief’s job easy. Put a dot (.) in the password hint field and don’t rely on it.

Security Questions

Many online services make you create security questions. Security questions are meant to help you gain access to the online service in case you don’t remember your password.

Security questions look like this:

  • What is your mother’s maiden name?
  • What is the name of your first high school?
  • In which city did you get married?
  • What is the name of your first pet?
  • What is the color of your first car?

The problem is, it is not very difficult to find out this information.

By answering these questions truthfully you are making your online account less secure.

Because you know computer password security, you already know what to do: create a random-generated string that looks like a strong and hard-to-guess password as an answer for each of these questions. Then put it in your password manager. Password managers have fields like “Notes” where you can add additional information about your account, including the security questions.

Computer Password Security Summary

If cyber thieves guess or steal your password, they can access your computer or online account and personal information stored inside it.

Insecure passwords are easy for someone to guess or a computer to break.

Secure passwords are strong and hard-to-guess, but also hard to remember.

With a password manager you:

  • Have strong passwords that are hard for someone to guess and for computers to break
  • Only have to remember one password

With strong computer password security your computer, cell phone and online accounts are much better protected.

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