Building Airtight Passwords For Your Account

As the old saying goes, locks only keep out the honest.

The greatest threats to the security of online accounts are not necessarily viruses, Trojan horses and spyware, but poorly chosen user names, passwords and security questions. In this case, somebody who knows you well enough can easily guess the code, and with the right kind of software, nefarious hackers can easily break in.

The elderly, especially those aged seventy to seventy-five are perhaps at greatest risk of all, being that they grew up in an era when people did their banking at the bank. Although many of these pensioners have gotten the hang of using the cloud to check their Social Security benefits, access their health-care plans or handle their banking, credit-card and retirement accounts. Due to their lack of experience with online computing, retirees sometimes are not in the know about choosing sophisticated passwords, and this poses a danger, especially since many of these people have numerous valuable assets.

Taking a few simple precautions will better your chances at security, and mitigate the aggravation that comes with having to juggle multiple passwords for multiple accounts.

Using your given name for your bank account is a bad idea, as anybody who knows you, or at least knows your name can pull up your bank’s website, enter your name, and attempt to break into your account. Such being the case, using a clever alias even your closest friends would never guess could not hurt, and the bank generally won’t care what appellation you choose.

For a password to be nice and rock solid, it should be at least about seven to ten digits, to be on the safe side. Select a phrase from a song, poem, movie, ad slogan, the Bible, whatever you want, take the first letter of each word, add your zip code. One example would be the first line from the Billie Holiday song “God Bless The Child,” “Them that’s got shall get” – TtGsG06511, just for instance.

This is just one way of doing this. As long as you have a mix of upper- and lowercase letters and numbers and an arcane mnemonic to help you remember the sequence, that’s a good start, as most passwords are case sensitive. You even could substitute numbers for certain letters, especially if the characters bear a passing resemblance to one another. For example, I = 1; Z or S = 2 or 5; E = 3; T = 7; B = 8; b = 6; Q = 9; A = 4, O or o = 0. You could even substitute punctuation marks for letters, like a $ for an S, an & for a B, a # for an H, or an @ for an A.

Don’t use actual words, because password breaking software can blast through the entire English dictionary in less than a minute. For security questions, throw a few randomly chosen characters on the end of your answer, as not doing so will make it easy for any would-be hacker to gain access to your account. For example, if the question you chose was the name of your birthplace, set your answer to something like PaloAlto974.

Keep at least five on hand, and use the more complicated passwords for the most sensitive accounts. Wireless internet passwords should be especially strong, in the interest of making sure that no intruders crowd your bandwidth and no creeps invade your privacy and intercept your web activity. If you need to write them down, by no means do it outright. Use a cryptic hint. For example, if your password is TbMt!21212 and the TbMt! is short for “They broke my thumbs!” write down “The Hustler.” That way, if any unscrupulous so-and-so simply enters the title of that particular classic movie starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason, guess what? Access denied!

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