We are overwhelmed with passwords we need to remember. Website logins, email accounts, social media accounts, financial accounts, PIN numbers, and even home security systems all require some kind of password. Creating strong passwords helps us safeguard the critical systems we rely on every day.

To create strong passwords:

  • Make it long. Many sites require a password that is a minimum of eight characters, but a 14+-character password is even stronger. Instead of a word, think about as it as a sentence, like: Iwant300chocolatechipCOOKIES:-). That is an example of a VERY strong password.
  • Be creative. Avoid using names, places, and descriptive words about yourself (such as a nickname, street name, maiden name, place of employment, etc.) because these are easily cracked using social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Mix it up. Sprinkle in capital letters and symbols, like $, @, or !.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Add another layer of protection by choosing two-factor authentication whenever you have that option. It adds an extra layer of protection when your credentials are used on a new device, so an intruder needs more than your password and username. Learn more about CEFCU On-Line® two-factor authentication and Security Access Codes at cefcu.com/post/why_are_security_access_codes_important.html.
  • Avoid using the same passwords across multiple sites. It’s easy on the memory, but could compromise the safety and security on more than one account. Change your password monthly.
  • Don’t let your browser or phone “remember” your passwords. Keep your passwords in your head... not on your devices.
  • Be careful with security questions. Ironically, security questions can be insecure because they often ask about things someone may be able to search online or find on a social media outlet, such as a pet’s name, where you went to high school, etc. Choose answers that are meaningful to you (but NOT the real answer)... like maybe your second choice for a pet’s name or a destination you’d like to travel to for a question, asking where you were born.
  • Use a Password Manager to securely store your passwords. These services don’t store decryption keys (which a code a hacker needs to transform an encrypted message, document, or data into a form that can be freely read). So, even if a decryption key is breached, it won’t compromise your password. It also reduces password reuse.

Insecure password practices and shared accounts can leave you vulnerable to hackers. If a hacker cracks your passwords, they could gain access to accounts that hold confidential, important, and personal data... putting you (and possibly others on a shared account) at risk of identity theft. Know what makes a strong password and put these techniques into practice so you can ensure maximum security for your sensitive information.