The Password Conundrum – tips for all kinds of situations
The information age does much to streamline our life, but as netizens’ know this efficiency is burdened by caveats, and sitting prime is having so many passwords to remember.
Banking passwords, email passwords, social media passwords, work passwords, document passwords to access the password list of passwords, argh, it can drive you crazier than trying to find a keyboard’s ‘any’ key.
And then there’s password security to consider.
I want to reclaim some simplicity, and by sharing my tips I have on password management, would love for you to share yours. Together, our tips will act to not only minimise our personal fraud risk, it’ll also go some way to solving the ‘so many passwords to remember’ conundrum.
Below are some of my password tips to ensure you stay safe. I call them the four ‘Ms’:
- Make it combination of letters, symbols and numbers
- Make it a minimum of eight characters long or a phrase
- Modify it regularly
- Make an encrypted spreadsheet
Now, let’s be pragmatic on the above two points. While a random collection of letters, symbols and numbers may work best (think %gtk8*4) who’s going to remember that, right? A more realistic approach is to use a permutation of a word with some extra symbols thrown in for good measure, say something like:
Evidence proves when it comes to passwords using a word is very common. Therefore, what’s above is a variation of the word Telstra. You can see I’ve transposed the ‘e’ with a ‘3’ and the ‘a’ with a ‘@’. I’ve also added the ‘!’ character at the beginning of the password.
These sorts of variations toughen your password strength while keeping it relatively easy to remember.
Password phrases, using the above technique, offer even better strength.
Another tip is to modify them regularly and I recommend every 8-12 weeks. Now, while you groan and think what a pain, you don’t have to go changing the entire word. Instead simply change one character.
Using our example above again you’ll note I’ve used the ‘!’ at the start. This exclamation mark symbol is made by simultaneously pressing shift and the 1 key on the keyboard. When I want to update my password I just change this character by moving along one key to the right, in this instance by using shift and the 2 key to make ‘@’.
By using this sequence I cycle through the numbers near the keyboard’s top and over time return back to the start upon reaching the numerical end, the ‘0’ key. This pattern makes it easier to remember the password when entering it, and if I forget little effort is needed remembering where I was in the sequence.
The fourth tip is to consider using an encrypted spreadsheet. The plethora of passwords, coupled to the unsound practice of using the same one everywhere, means having to keep a list, of at least some of them, somewhere. An encrypted spreadsheet is where I keep this list and I typically reserve this only for passwords I seldom use. Creating an encrypted, or password protected, spreadsheet document is super simple, and if you’re unsure just navigate to your applications help menu to learn.
Once created, and applying our newly learned tips, start adding away. Save the document somewhere accessible (cloud storage, USB drive) and you now have a place saving all the seldom used passwords protected by one which you regularly do.
So, there are the four Ms, my tips on password management. What are yours?
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Telstra.