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Password Safety

Written By: Richard Lowe

If you’ve been on the internet for any length of time, you’ve
collected about a zillion accounts and their associated passwords.
Personally, I have over 500 different active accounts all over
the web and probably a thousand more inactive or unused accounts.

Most people don’t have anywhere near that number, but I’ll bet you
have at least a couple of dozen. Let’s see, you’ve probably got an
account at your bank’s website, a few credit cards, egroups,
perhaps a few webrings, your ISP, email, hotmail, perhaps AOL,
and a few others that you don’t use as often.

If you are like most people, you cannot even come close to
remembering it all. In fact, a lot of people simply create the same
account name and password everywhere … and that’s extremely
dangerous.

Let’s say a hacker figures out your AOL account and password. If
every other account that you own has the same username and
password … well, you get the idea. Now all he has to do is figure
out where you have accounts … but he could just try it at a number
of say, banking sites or credit card sites, and perhaps he will get
lucky. You may make it even easier for him by mentioning your sites
in your AOL emails or on your web site.

So how do you protect yourself? First, make sure your passwords are
all different. Don’t use the same password on all of your
accounts … and try and use a few different usernames if you can.

Next, be sure and choose some password that are not so easy to guess.
Avoid names (husband, wife, kids, cats and so on), social security
and phone numbers, addresses and anything else that someone could
figure out if they knew anything about you.

Also avoid some common words. Did you know that the most common
password is simply “password”. “God” is also common, especially
amoung system managers. Avoid common words such as these.

All right! Now you’ve got all of your 30 or so accounts set up
with different account names and different difficult-to-guess
passwords. How are you going to remember them all?

Rule number one is be prepared for disaster. Write down all of
your usernames and passwords in a notebook (yes, on paper). No,
really. You need to do this because computers sometimes die, and
when they do it’s at the worst possible time. You may not even have
a backup, and if you loose all of your passwords you could lose a lot.

Keep this notebook safe, perhaps locked in a drawer. It’s probably
a good idea to keep a copy in your safe deposit box – so someone
can get to your accounts after you die, perhaps, or if you are in
the hospital or something else happens.

Now keep a computer record also, which you will maintain more
up-to-date. I like using a program called Password Tracker, although
you could just as easily use Excel or even notepad. The idea is to
record all of your account information as you create or change it.
Password Tracker is great because it also gives you tools to enter
the data for you.

A product to avoid is Gator (I use both Password Tracker). This
program is handy for saving passwords and filling in forms, but it
is spyware and transmits details of your surfing habits to a
corporate database.

Be sure and keep backups of the Password Tracker database …
believe me, you don’t want to lose this information if you can
avoid it.

By the way, I’ve learned to avoid the automatic account and password
features of Internet Explorer. Why? Because there is no way to save,
print out or get to the information. Thus, if the computer dies I
lose my passwords with no way to recover. I don’t use Netscape much,
but I would guess the same thing applies.

To conclude, use different account names and passwords for your
various web sites. Record them on paper and store that somewhere
safe. In addition, you can use programs link Excel, Gator and
Password Tracker to save all of this information for you. Finally,
and very importantly, be very prepared for disaster.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at
http://www.internet-tips.net – Visit our website any time to read
over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.

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