Weekend Project: Fix Your Passwords
By now you know that the only thing keeping your online accounts safe is the thin wall known as the password. On most sites, if your password is stolen, your account is wide open. Whoever gets your password can impersonate you, steal money from you and erase your valuable digital assets, like your photos.
It matters what you choose as a password. If bad guys are attacking a site you use, or have gotten a list of encrypted passwords from a site, then the longer and more random the password, the harder it will be to discover. So you want your passwords to be as strong as possible. What’s a strong password? Not “password,” or “123456,” or anything else on the list of dumbest passwords people use; those are the ones hackers will try on your accounts first.
You also need your passwords to be different on each site. That way, if a password to one site is stolen, the damage will be contained. The last thing you want is for one site you use to get hacked, exposing your data to criminals not just there, but everywhere.
The problem, of course, is that while everyone knows what a strong password looks like — a long string of random letters, numbers and symbols — nobody wants to come up with strong passwords, and no normal person could possibly memorize dozens of strong, random passwords for the sites they use.
But doing just that is the only safe thing to do. Anything less — using weak passwords, or the same password in multiple places — is asking for trouble.
So, to summarize: Only absurd, un-memorizable passwords are safe. You can’t write them down. And you need a different password on each site. No wonder nobody practices good password hygiene. It’s just not possible.
At least, not without help. There is a solution, one that we at Yahoo Tech cannot recommend highly enough: Use a password manager. That’s a program that memorizes all your complicated passwords for you.
So let’s get your passwords into shape, shall we? Welcome to the weekend project: fixing your passwords (with a password manager).
Step 1: Get started with a password manager.
There are several competing password managers. These apps will create good passwords, remember them for you, store them safely, synchronize them across your computers and mobile devices, and even enter passwords into your login forms so you don’t have to type them. If you need good passwords — and you do — then using a password manager is the best way to fly.