The next time you log into your email or online banking account, think about this: Research shows that 35 percent of internet users have weak passwords; the other 65 percent have passwords that hackers can break.
Wait, it gets worse.
Three out of four people use duplicate passwords — the same password for separate online accounts — and most of them haven’t changed their password in five years or more. It’s no wonder, then, that 40 percent of internet users have experienced a security incident within the past 12 months.
But there’s a simple fix to this. Follow these three tips and create a super-powerful password that even Neo from “The Matrix” would struggle to crack.
1. Use a combination of characters
Think of your online passwords like the world’s strongest home security system. You don’t just want a security camera and an alarm. You want a quadruple-bolted steel door with laser beams. Stop the bad guys from breaking in with a password that combines uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation marks.
“Passwords should contain three or four character types,” according to the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University. “Do not base your password on any items of personal information such as your name, social security number, birthday, pet names or family member and do not use your account name as a password.”
So, if you’re still using your child’s birthday or mother’s maiden name as your password, now’s a good time to crank up your online security. A super-strong password will prevent third parties from accessing your data and causing you misery.
2. Use a password manager
Imagine if someone remembered your passwords for you and then encrypted them so no one could access your personal details. That’s what a password manager does. It stores passwords in an encrypted database, providing you with peace of mind. Some even generate new passwords for you every time you log into an online account, so you never have to use the same password twice.
“Password managers help you generate unique and strong passwords, store them in one safe (encrypted) place, and use them while only needing to remember one master password,” says Carnegie Mellon University.
There are loads of password managers out there — 1Password, Bitser, Enpass and Dashlane are just four of them — and they can be a powerful weapon in your online security arsenal.
You can use a password manager on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.
3. Go long
Long passwords are better than short ones, according to research from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). In fact, your password should be at least 12 characters long if you expect to outlast a data breach for more than a few hours.
These 12-character-long “super passwords” are tough to crack. GTRI researchers could break eight-character passwords in less than two hours, but they estimate it would take more than 17,000 years to decipher phrases with 12 characters.
Worried about your online security? You have reason to be. Equifax, Yahoo, Uber — these were just some of the companies that experienced a data breach in 2017. Follow the three password tips on this list and you’ll have what it takes to protect your data and secure your online identity.