5 bad password habits you should clean up now — here's how

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Time to reset your password? 5 mistakes to avoid. (Photo: Getty)
Time to reset your password? 5 mistakes to avoid. (Photo: Getty) (designer491 via Getty Images)

Contrary to popular belief, passwords are not like shampoo instructions; we’re not supposed to rinse and repeat them all over the internet. In other words, you can't use the same password for every account. But that's no easy feat. According to Digital Guardian, the average email address is associated with 130 online accounts. What’s worse, in a survey of 1,000 people, the website found a whopping 61 percent used the same password across multiple accounts.

Watch out for these 5 bad password habits, and make sure you're doing everything you can to protect your personal information.

Bad habit #1: You use the same password all over the internet

C’mon. You know better. The riskiest practice you can put in place is this one. One (if not more) of your online accounts is likely to get exposed with so many massive breaches affecting consumer sites and services. That bad news? It’s likely that one of your passwords has already been stolen. The simplest website breach could expose all of your online accounts if you use the same password across multiple sites.

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“The biggest danger of using the same password everywhere is that if someone is able to compromise your email account they can then go and try every banking website, even if they don’t know which one you use, and just say “forgot password,” Christopher Rees security author at Pluralsight tells Yahoo Life. “They can then have a reset link sent to your email address. At that point, they have your email address, so if they do that at 2:00 a.m. they could send a reset password link, click on it to reset your password then go back into the email account and delete that original email — you’ll never know the email ever came.”

He says one of the best ways to beef up your passwords is by using a password manager. “Password managers are by far much more secure in that they allow us to use very complex non-human readable passwords, 24 characters or more in some cases, and they are different for every single website,”

Bad habit #2: You never remember your password

Can you remember who played in the basketball playoffs in 2016, but can’t remember your password? Are you continually logging in through the “I forgot my password” link? Particularly with pages you visit only occasionally? It is unlikely that you will remember where all of your accounts are, how many you have on each website, or what username and password you register with. By not having a system in place, you are wasting time and disrupting productivity.

Bad habit #3: You never update your passwords

Tell the truth. How long has it been since you changed the passwords for your email? What about social media? Or the passwords to your bank accounts? A strong password is just as important as changing it regularly, especially if it was used on more than one account. If you don’t keep track of your passwords (ahem, see tip number 2 above), you won’t know when, if ever, they’ve been updated— or breached.

Stop using easy-to-guess passwords, and other tips for safer web use. (Photo:Getty)
Stop using easy-to-guess passwords, and other tips for safer web use. (Photo:Getty) (vinnstock via Getty Images)

Bad habit #4: You use passwords that are too short

It’s understandable. Afraid of having to remember a too-long password, you go for something short, with just seven or eight characters. What can go wrong? Turns out, plenty. To be secure from password cracking programs, the minimum suggested password length is 14 characters.

Bad habit #5: Keeping the same security question answers

Phishing attempts have gotten elusive and elaborate. Be careful: those online quizzes that ask you what year you were born or what street you lived on can store the information they’ve gathered to hack your security questions.

Look at these types of quizzes, surveys, and social media posts with a critical eye. “A lot of these online surveys you have seen on... social media websites, ask pretty much those exact questions. Ever wonder why?” Rees asks. “I’m assuming they're compiling all of that information that can be used with other info, and over time get very detailed info on people that can be used to reset passwords, answer security questions on websites, email accounts, banking accounts, etc..”

Be careful with types of information you provide when playing quizzes on the internet. (Photo: Getty)
Be careful with types of information you provide when playing quizzes on the internet. (Photo: Getty) (Soifer via Getty Images)

An easy way around this is on your own security questions, provide non-sequitur answers only you will know the answer to. For example, your mother’s middle name can be the name of your favorite cartoon. The street you grew up on can be your favorite magazine.

Decide how you’d like to answer, instead of what questions are on your screen. So if some internet creeper DOES get access to your personal info, he can't use them to hack into your accounts.

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