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SALT LAKE CITY — Cybersecurity. We all know it’s important. We all know we should probably think about it more than we do.
We also know it just really confuses a lot of us (minus, perhaps, the security professionals and techies among us).
October is cybersecurity month, so now might be a good time to focus on some simple things we can do to increase our online security. Passwords are our first defense when it comes to protecting online information. Yet, how many of us use the same, easy-to-guess passwords?
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to change your password all the time to keep it safe. But the spookiest thing you can do this Halloween is use the same password for everything.
Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau for coming up with a better password:
Think of your passwords as walls
This is fairly self-explanatory. If you put up a strong wall in front of your information, it’s harder to break down. If you’ve got a lot of strong walls, it’s even more difficult to break through. If you’ve got one, weak wall, you’re probably toast.
Don’t make your passwords easy to guess
If your password is made up of information that’s simple for others to find, it’s easily guessable. People often use things like their pet’s name, their mother’s maiden name, the town they grew up in, their birthday or other facts about themselves that are actually very searchable online — especially if they have social media.
A strong password has at least 12 characters mixed with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. These can be difficult to remember, so we’ll talk more later on about password managers and tips for remembering unique passwords.
Make them creative
Coming up blank? Try song lyrics. It can be really difficult for hackers to figure out which song you’re using, and, even if they do, it’ll be even more difficult to guess which lyrics in the song you’ve chosen.
Use a “passphrase”
Instead of just using one word, use a phrase. Doing so will give your password both length and complexity. Try something that will be easy for you to remember, but impossible for others to guess.
Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication isn’t available for everything, but accounts that store a lot of important information (like your email or bank account) should have it. Those accounts usually require you to put in a second piece of information after your password — usually a code that’s sent to your phone. This will help protect your account even if your password is compromised.
Select security questions only you know the answer to
People often choose security questions that are actually very searchable online or in public records, like a zip code, mother’s maiden name or birthplace. Try choosing a question that’s a little more unique, like which city you were in when you got your first kiss (though even that can be fairly guessable, too).
If this poll doesn't work for you, vote here. Use multiple passwords
Ah, this dreaded piece of advice. There are so many sites we use that require a password that it seems impossible to use different ones each time. This is, however, one of the most important yet unheeded pieces of advice. Here are a few ideas to make this less painful, according to past coverage from KSL.com.
First, determine which accounts should remain the most secure (like your email or banking accounts). Come up with unique and difficult passwords for those. For the rest, combine a reusable, random-looking string of letters and numbers with something that is unique, but easy to remember for the website.
For instance, hsk872 may be the initials of your hamster, fish and cat, and the last digit of the year you got them. Then, add the first letters of the words of the website where you’re creating an account. For example, your password for scaryhalloweencostumes.com would be hsk872shc.
Consider a password manager
If you must write down your passwords, a written (but hidden) list on a physical piece of paper would be best. The Better Business Bureau says that if you’re going to write it on your phone, be smart enough to label the list something other than “passwords.”
You may also want to consider a password manager — or a tool to help you manage your passwords. There are browser extensions, websites and apps that help you generate, remember and enter passwords.
Password managers make it easy to create long, random, unique passwords for every site. There are free ones and ones that charge you, as well as ones that store your passwords locally or in the cloud.
Browsers also have limited password managers that offer to save your passwords for you. However, they are not considered very secure and are meant more for convenience than security.
To learn more about different password managers, visit Consumers Advocate and check out their list of the top 10 options for 2018.