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Change your password!

Passwords are in the news these days, and the news is not good. A great example was the result of some recent hacking that included the Twitter accounts of people like US President Barack Obama and Britney Spears. It turned out that the password protecting the administrative area for Twitter was ‘happiness’ – not very smart.

Another recent story making the rounds has to do with what’s been referred to as the ‘Worst passwords of all time’ – the list included:

  • 123456
  • password
  • qwerty
  • 696969
  • computer
  • letmein
  • football
  • abc123
  • test
  • ncc1701

A hacker has a good chance of breaking into an account by simply running this list of common passwords against the login system. Needless to say if your password is any of these, you should probably change it right away!

So what should you do now? Change your password. Especially if you see yours on that list. But either way, it’s a good practice to change your passwords on a regular basis and also to make sure you choose strong passwords. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to educate your users about passwords.

Here are some suggestions for choosing passwords. Any password you use should at the very least:

  • have at least 6 characters
  • should never contain the words that can be found in the dictionary
  • should contain characters from three of the following categories:
    • uppercase letters
    • lowercase letters
    • numbers
    • non-alphanumeric characters (eg %, $, @)

You should also change your passwords often and avoid reusing passwords across different sites. For example, don’t use the same password for your web hosting control panel that you use for your e-mail account. Don’t use the same e-mail account for registrations as it becomes the single point to access all the keys of your kingdom via the ‘forgot password’ function if that email account is compromised.

While a super-strong password is ideal, it’s sometimes hard to remember. Printing out passwords is okay as long as you keep that printout safe (keep it in your wallet but don’t stick it to your monitor!) And don’t do something foolish link storing them in a simple text file on your computer desktop with usernames and passwords plus the URL for each site.

Whatever you do, changing passwords often is a great habit to have but also think about security on your other systems. How many of you use the same password for everything you do online? Hackers know this is common and once they get one of your passwords, they’ll try different services to see if you reuse passwords like many people viagra purchase online do.

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