What steps do I take to setup new or secure existing online accounts?
This is a question that all users should know the answers to. When you sign up for an online account you are usually told what the “minimum requirements” are for creating that account. What you are not told is that by using the “minimum requirements” you are setting your account up to be easily hacked. Period. It is not even debatable. I repeat, “If you use minimum requirements to setup any online account your account can be easily breached“. With that in mind you are probably wanting to know immediately what to do because we almost all have used the minimum requirements at one time or another. Remember, don’t get mad take action!
Multiple Account Approach
Most people have more than one online account. With that in mind keep at least 3 different “Account Combinations” at your disposal. One for financial, one for email and a 3rd for other accounts. It is critical that you use more than one “Account Combination”. If your online information is compromised (by an attack at the online server) hackers know that most people use only one account setup combination. Then they immediatly run out and try it at popular services to see what they can get control of. Solution – use more than one “Account Combination”.
Your Account User ID
The first thing you need to do is pick a “User ID” that is NOT part of your name. That’s right. The part that you can see when you type it on the screen is still part of your “key”. The magic combination that unlocks your account. So don’t give away 1/2 of your combination lock by using your name. Stay away from any logon that is aligned with you. If you are a huge sports fan, do not use the name of your favorite player. If you are a Food Network addict don’t use the name of your favorite chef. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your User ID. Most User ID’s do not check case. Some do! Use a combination of upper and lower case with a number or two thrown in. Examples would be: Fiji22 or Poodle18.
Strong Encryption (or great passwords)
Just like the User ID your password should have upper case, lower case and numbers but you should ALSO have a symbol! This is critical. Yes, short is great, but not for your top level password. For your financial you want a 10 charecter password. You can stick with 8 for the other two levels.
What should we NOT use? Any part or combination of your name, your children’s, relatives, place you live, work, play, etc. While we are at it, don’t use words! That makes it easy eh? So what are we left with? Acronyms!
Acronyms will set you free!
We need to be able to easily remember our passwords. But we are not allowed to use words. Acronyms are the answer. Think of a phrase from TV, movies, literature or politics. You get the picture, anything but a personal item about you. Capitalize the first and third letter of the phrase add in a single, double or triple dose of “Special Characters” and end up with a year from a great wine or your favorite period of history. Remember “Nothing Personal” should ever be used! Slam all of them together and you have an awesome password that is easy to remember. For example lets say you used the Arnold Schwarzenegger move quote “I’ll be back”. You then picked the “Special Character” of the pound sign (#) and your favorite year in history was 1776. You would end up with IbB###1776 to get your 10 character password. Excellent! Now remember to create at LEAST 3 “Account Combinations”.
Those pesky security questions. They are supposed to make your account more secure and often they are the tool used to hack the account! An easy solution is there however. Again, the power of the acronym! Just add an acronym to the beginning or end of any answer and would be hackers are left with no usable answers. For instance if your mothers maiden name is “Smith” you could use SmithPP using PP from the old Little Caesars “Pizza Pizza” catch phrase.
Ultimately online security is up to you. Yes it is much easier to type in your children’s first name or your pets moniker but that will eventually get your account compromised. It is not a matter of if, but of when. Be part of the solution and get your acronyms in order!