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Keep Them Guessing by Changing Your Passwords


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By Carrie Kerskie, Director of the Identity Fraud Institute

Hodges University wants to help you keep your information secure. By focusing on various issues related to identity fraud and identity theft, Carrie Kerskie, director of the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University, will share her insight and expertise on each topic, providing you with everything you need to know to protect your sensitive and personal information in today’s world.

Nowadays, it seems as if every website you visit requires you to create an account with a username and password. The username is easy to create, typically relating to your email address or first and last name; however, the password can be daunting. While names, dates and places are easy to remember, these passwords can often be easy to identify by computers, hackers and other users when attempting to access your personal information.

According to the 2016 survey, “The Psychology of Passwords,” of the 91 percent of individuals who understand the risk of reusing passwords, 61 percent continue to reuse them.

As a rule of thumb, you should make sure to change your password once each year, or if you prefer, six months is even better.

Examples of Bad Passwords

  • Dictionary words: These words can be easily cracked by a computer
  • Dates: Special dates such as an anniversary, birthday or address can be easily found online or may be known by individuals close to you
  • Names: Just as with dates, using your name or any name associated with your spouse, children or pets will be easy for a thief to discover and use to access your information
  • Places: Do you vacation in a particular place each year? Do you make it known on social media, etc.? If so, don’t use it as a potential password!
  • Special numerals: Examples include 123456789, 1111111
  • Social Security Number
  • The word – password

Student on Hodges University campusExamples of Good Passwords

  • Using phrases instead of words
  • The longer the password the better: Typically, a good password is at least 8 characters in length; however, if you can make it 12 to 14 characters in length, that is even better.
  • Mix it up: According to the article, “Secure Password Tips,” written by Sam Imandoust, Esq., a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center, he says, “Mix special characters, lowercase letters, uppercase letters, and numbers to increase the complexity of your password.”[1]
    • For example: H$pNt23!b0, IluvtHeBe@cH42!

How to Properly Store Your Passwords

You are probably wondering how in the world you are supposed to remember all of the different passwords you will have to create for each account, especially if they are a combination of numbers, letters, special characters and more. Am I right? Here are a few ways you can store your passwords:

  • Lock it up: Write your password down and store it in a locked file cabinet or secure location.
  • Computer programs: You may choose to use a spreadsheet or Word document; however, you must make sure to password protect the file and do not title it “MyPasswords.” In the event the computer were to be compromised, it would be difficult for the hacker to access the document without the password.
  • App or Software programs: The risk here is with cloud-based services/apps. A few questions to ask include:
    • Are my passwords encrypted or are they stored on the same server as everyone else?
    • Do you offer end-to-end encryption? This means the information is protected in transit from your computer/device to their cloud.
    • Where are their servers located? Just because it is a U.S.-based company does not mean that your information is going to be stored on a server in the U.S. Many companies rent server space overseas and some in areas you do not want your sensitive information.

For questions about password protection, contact Carrie Kerskie at ckerskie@hodges.edu or (239) 598-6281. Interested in receiving more information from Hodges’ Identity Fraud Institute? Sign up by texting IFINEWS to 22828 or visit us online!

[1] Imandoust, Sam. “Secure Password Tips.” Identity Theft Resource Center. http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Cybersecurity/secure-password-tips.html.