5 Tips for a Stronger Password

First Line of Defense Against Cybercrime

Ali Hardy Nov 14, 2019

As cases of cybercrime and identity theft become increasingly prevalent, you may wonder how to protect yourself and your personal information from an attack.

“One of the best things you can do to protect your online identity is to practice good password management,” says David Stirling, chief information security officer for Zions Bancorporation. “Creating a strong password is your first line of defense against cybercriminals looking to misuse your personal information.”

Implementing cybersecurity best practices can help you create better passwords and keep your accounts more secure. Follow these five simple tips for stronger passwords.

Tip No. 1: Don’t Reuse Passwords

Reusing and recycling are great for paper and plastic — but not for passwords. It may be tempting to use the same password for various accounts for the sake of convenience; however, Stirling warns that this habit could cost you in the long run. “There is significant risk associated with using the same password across multiple accounts or applications,” he cautions. “If your credentials are all the same and cybercriminals obtain them, your exposure is much greater.”

To protect your information, Stirling recommends complex and varied passwords for each of your accounts. “For instance, you should have a different password for your Zions Bank online banking and your Netflix account,” Stirling advises.

Tip No. 2: Password Length Is Strength

There are several components to a secure password, but perhaps the simplest way to enhance password security is adding additional characters. “Password length is emerging as the greatest indicator of password effectiveness,” Stirling explains. “Cybersecurity research indicates that by adding a few extra characters to your password, you are making it much more difficult for a cybercriminal to crack.”

Passwords with 12 characters or more greatly improve their safety. Stirling suggests using a phrase (including spaces) to make a password easier to remember, such as using lyrics from a song that is meaningful to you. 

Tip No. 3: Create New, Unique Passwords

When creating a new password, it can be easy for us to use a variation of an existing password, rather than crafting a new one. “Minor tweaks like changing a couple of numbers or symbols provides a false sense of security,” Stirling explains. “Because it isn’t different enough from the prior password, it is much easier to guess.” He emphasizes that it is vital to create a truly unique password for each account. In addition, avoid using sensitive information in the body of your password, such as Social Security numbers or your PIN.

Tip No. 4: Avoid Writing Your Passwords Down

Proper password protection isn’t just important online. Stirling says to avoid writing your passwords on paper or saving them in unprotected documents or mobile apps. “A sticky note with your password written on it under your keyboard defeats the purpose,” he warns. “Keeping your password secure is critical online, but it’s just as important to be vigilant at home and in the workplace.”

Tip No. 5: Consider a Password Manager

If you feel as though you have too many passwords to remember, consider using password management software. Password managers store your login and password information securely through encryption and can also generate random passwords for increased security. Many operate on both your desktop browser and your mobile phone.

Keep in mind that some password management services may charge a small monthly fee, depending on how many passwords you choose to store. Stirling recommends consumers research their options to determine which is the best fit for their individual needs.

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