Tips to help you remember all your passwords

Between all of the social media platforms, financial services portals and mobile apps we use day to day, it has become very important to remember all your passwords.  Passwords are like the key to your house or car. When you have them, your life proceeds smoothly. You can come and go as you please. But if you lose them, things get a bit more complicated. It’s no different on the web. But with a few password tips, you can more easily remember all your passwords.

Most people have one password that they use everywhere, which makes it easy to remember. It also makes it riskier. Using one password is like having a master key. If someone were to get hold of it, they could open all the doors, which could pose a potential security risk.

Ideally, you should have at least three password variations for the different levels of security.

  1. A password for news sites, social networks and other sites that don’t store personal financial data.
  2. A password for online shopping sites where your credit card number may be stored.
  3. Variations of a third password used exclusively for financial services sites like credit cards and banks.

All your passwords should be “strong”, which means a string of seemingly random numbers, letters, and symbols (if allowed). Passwords should generally be 9 to 11 characters in length and not obviously connected to your life (birthday, child’s name, etc.).

Here’s a technique you may want to consider. Take a favorite song lyric, quote or even poem and use it as the base of your password. For example, take a passage from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Use the last three words “soul of wit.” Add to it a meaningful year in your life, perhaps your high school graduation, 1989 for example, and bookend the numbers with your phrase. You now have a strong password in 19soulofwit89. Create three of these, one for each class of site as suggested above.

Passwords are always paired with a user name. Unless required, don’t use your e-mail address. Here are some ideas about how to select your user name.

  • Use a nickname if you have one
  • Use your last name then first name
  • Use someone else’s first name (spouse, child, best friend) then your last name or vice versa

The next task is remembering all these variations. Here’s a suggestion. When you arrive at the log-in page of a particular site where you have already registered, select bookmark or favorite from your browser toolbar. But instead of simply adding it, customize the description to include the site name, your username and password. But don’t type all the characters in the clear. Use the first couple of characters so you are easily reminded which of the three schemes you used when you registered, then the appropriate number of asterisks ***. Whenever you want to log-in to the site in the future, simply reach for the bookmark and you will instantly see the proper log-in information.

It’s important to mask your password, just in case anyone has the opportunity to look at your favorites. And if you pass along your computer in the future, you will want to export your favorites to a flash drive or other portable media device to be loaded on your new computer, a real time saver. Then delete all bookmarks from the old machine and wipe the hard drive clean.

That’s it. Spend a few minutes establishing your password conventions up front, customize your browser favorites menu and your online life may go much smoother and will likely be more secure.

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