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Not all passwords are created equal

Making sure your digital activity is secure is important. Here are some helpful hints about how you can protect yourself from cyber crime.

By Paul Turnbull, Information Technology Teacher

No one wants to type in a password for access to their files and in an ideal, criminal-free world we wouldn’t need to. However, when it comes to protecting our digital activity, passwords are a critical part of our everyday life. Whether we’re uploading photos to our one drive or sending emails to our loved ones, they make us feel safe – but is your information really as safe as you think?

People often fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Who would want to hack my account?’ with many people adopting relaxed security habits as a result. If recent Facebook data breaches that regularly hit headlines around the world has taught us anything, it’s that no one is infallible.

So how can you up your password game, particularly online, in order to prevent access to your personal information? Here are some general rules:

  • Never use personal details in your password. Ever!
  • Never use the same password twice. Yes, you will end up with a lot of them, but it is not worth the risk.
  • Use a string of random letters, numbers and symbols (don’t place the symbol at the end).
  • Create long passwords of at least eight characters, preferably 12.
  • Change your passwords frequently (as often as you change your toothbrush).

My favourite method of creating a secure password is creating a passphrase by taking a sentence and turning it into a password. It can be anything personal that makes it easier to remember, as you are only going take the words from the sentence, then abbreviate and combine them in a unique way to form a password. It’s even better if you can substitute some letters for numbers that look similar.

For example, the sentence ‘Wow, I cannot believe that I passed my TAFE course’ will become 'W1cbt1pmTc'.

After creating your super secure passwords, there is still one important step remaining – remembering them. The best way to keep track of multiple passwords is with a managing tool such as LastPass or 1Password. They are free apps that store your passwords for you or even generate random new ones if needed. You will only need to remember the one master password for access to all the others.

After all is said and done, what’s important to keep in mind is that even complex passwords can be compromised. So even if yours is bigger than Ben Hur, you should never think you are completely secure in the online world.