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I’ve got a secret …

It’s my password 🙂

What’s your password? Is it “secret”? Is it secure?

According to password management company SplashData, http://splashdata.com/press/worstpasswords2013.htm the top three passwords of the year (2013) are “123456,” “password” and “12345678.” The top three passwords haven’t changed, but “123456” and “password” swapped places from last year. The company’s list of the “25 worst passwords of the year” was compiled using data that hackers have posted online, which are said to be stolen passwords.

Here are the 25 most common passwords of 2013, along with the change in rank from last year.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

These passwords might have ben good in the early eighties, but using them today (IMHO) is like leaving valuables in the front seat of your car, unlocked – with the windows down 🙂 … Easy pickings for hackers and thieves.

Hacking has evolved into an art – and is nothing to take lightly these days.

So what’s my password ? …”thecomputerman”? …”illnevertell”? … or perhaps “secret”? …

Well – to be honest, none of the above.

But let’s take a simple password like Michael and see what we can do to make it stronger and more secure.

First – if we add capital letters to the password – like MIcHaEl – we’ve increased the security.

Now, let’s add some numbers:  1MIcH7aEl9 – better still…

Now, lets add some special characters (usually #$!%&* are allowable – and perhaps others) :  *1MIc%H7aE$l9! – now we’re talking 🙂

Remember, hackers can use computer generated programs with the assistance of dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, you-name-it – and can run through thousands of iterations in a short amount of time.  They could also pursue social media sites to pickup information that might aid them.  If you use a simple password – your most important stuff is at risk!

I know some folks who use the same password (or a similar one) for many if not all their accounts.  Not good 🙁

Once someone has one of your passwords, they are likely to “go shopping” – using your username (usually your email address) and the “secret” password to gain access to any of your other potential accounts (like your bank account, shopping accounts, social networking accounts, etc.).

But Michael, *1MIc%H7aE$l9! is hard to remember… True.

So what to do? … and by the way – this applies to your “secret” questions as well (usually needed to reset a password for example).

1.  Use passwords of eight characters or more (using upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters) as in my example:  *1MIc%H7aE$l9!.  You can also use a password generator.

2.  Some folks recommend using passphrases – short words with spaces or other characters separating them (secure*vault*box10).

3.  Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites.

4.  Make the answer to your “secret” questions uncommon – even if it’s not the actual answer, or create your own question if possible.

If you have a hard time remembering those strong passwords and secret questions, you can use a password manager application that will store your passwords, and automatically log you into websites.

Or you can write them down.

Better yet, create a Microsoft Word or Excel document (or some such similar program) and password protect the document (will require a password to open the document).  Warning! – do not forget this password – or you will not be able to access your password list!

To be safe, print out the password list (and the master password) and store it in your favorite book (or drawer, or cubby hole).

!TaKe7CaRE#$%1

Michael – The Computer Man – Have tools…will travel…