Why You Should Never Use The Same Password Twice, Plus Some Tips On Creating The Strongest Passwords You Can
Your password is all that stands between you and the hoards of hackers waiting to ruin your life and rob you blind. Put like that, it seems obvious to pick a strong password, but in actuality, you need way more than one. As Mic points out, you should actually never use the same password for multiple accounts, for the simple reason that it makes it pretty easy for hackers to access your entire life. Long story short? You might have some passwords to change.
Americans are generally pretty terrible at picking secure passwords. Every year, the most common passwords in the United States turn out to be things like "123456" or simply "password." Sometimes people think they're getting fancy by trying things like "passw0rd" instead, but that isn't actually any better; it's still easily guessed. And all of that's a problem, because weak passwords are responsible for half of all successful cyber attacks, and are a main reason why the profit margins on cybercrime are so high.
But even if you pick a strong password, one is simply not enough. As Mic recently explained, if you use the same password for multiple accounts, especially if you use the same one for an extended period of time, then all a hacker needs to do is find an old, compressed account — often times something you might not even remember you used to have — and figure out its password. If it's the same one you use for other accounts, then it doesn't matter how good it is; you're still screwed.
So since you're now expected to come up with a unique password every time, how are you supposed to possibly keep all that straight? Because not writing down your passwords is kind of another important rule of password protection.
One solution Mic recommends is a password manager, like 1Password or LastPass, which generates unique passwords for all your accounts but only requires you to remember one master password — hopefully something that is extra, super, mega hard to crack (though also, when testing password strength, don't type your actual password into one of those password testers — substitute words and numbers, guys).
If you want to go it alone, there are also tricks to keeping your password straight — and which don't involve simply using a base password and then numbering each individual use. If someone finds out your password is "TooCool7" they can easily guess something else might be "Too Cool8."
Some people recommend the "poetry method." Because it's easier to remember rhyming phrases than unrhymed ones, you can pick a few random words that rhyme for each password — they're easier to remember, and there's really no way to guess what other random rhymes you might be using if someone were to get a hold of one set.
You can also use a key. Select a passage from a book, something that isn't distinctive but that you'll be able to find if you need to, and choose a random section — preferably something that starts in the middle of a word and contains punctuation — and then turn the spaces into numbers. It's not random to you, but it will look that way to everyone else.
And there are all sorts of other codes you can come up with, from scrambles to cyphers, that don't make sense unless you understand the reasoning behind them. For instance, I don't use either of the above methods, but still have ways of making sure my passwords are unique, memorable, and secure — ways including my clever strategy of not sharing my strategies with people on the Internet.
If there is one password though that should be totally unique and not anything like any other password you use — not based on a code or a sequence or anything else — it should be your email. Because if someone hacks that, chances are they can reset most of your other passwords, and then you really are screwed.
Stay safe out there in the cyber jungle, guys.