Used correctly, passwords help keep your personal information safe, and if you’re like me, you probably have dozens (or in my case hundreds) of online accounts and mobile apps that require one. So it’s no surprise that people have adapted some coping strategies to make passwords memorable yet distinctive.
The most common mistake consumers made, according to McAfee’s recent Digital Asset Study, is using the same password for all or most online accounts. At least 55% of people admittedly store digital assets on their devices that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or re-purchase. While 72% of smartphone users and 88% of tablet users do not protect their devices with some sort of comprehensive security measure.
Other common mistakes include, using passwords that are easy to remember (like a birthday or child’s or pet’s name) and writing down a password on a sticky note or slip of paper to make it easy to reference. Using the same password for every account makes it easier to remember how to log in, but it also makes it easier for hackers to access most or all of your accounts. All of these common tricks defeat the main purpose of a password—protecting your private information.
The Top Five most used passwords:
The best kind of password has all of the following qualities:
- Is at least ten character in length
- It doesn’t contain any word or words found in the dictionary
- It mixes capital and lower-case letters
- It contains special characters like numbers, punctuation marks, or symbols
While it’s easy enough to create a random string of numbers, letters, and special characters, it can be tricky to remember this kind of password, especially if you’re savvy enough to use a different password for each log-in, which is recommended.
Fortunately, keeping your accounts secure doesn’t have to come at the cost of your sanity. Password managers allow you to use strong passwords on all of your accounts without having to remember them.
Password managers work by keeping all of your passwords in a secure program that automatically fills out your login information when you go to a site that you have saved.
Every password manager is a little bit unique, but they generally fall into two categories:
Desktop password managers – These keep your information on your hard drive, meaning your password information is stored on the device itself. Like two-step verification, this means it’s far more difficult to access your account from an unfamiliar device. The downside is that if you lose your device, get a new one, or just get unlucky and suffer a crash unexpectedly, you might also lose all those tough-to-crack passwords.
Cloud-based password managers – such as McAfee® SafeKey, part of the McAfee LiveSafe™ service – keep your login information securely encrypted and available on any device with Internet access. This is great for people who use multiple devices (like a laptop and tablet at home, a PC at work, and a mobile phone on the go) as they can be accessed from any of your devices. The key is to create a highly secure password that will act as the master key that unlocks all of your online accounts.
Both types usually have the means to auto-generate highly secure passwords and auto-fill as you navigate your various online properties.
User name and password combinations are the most basic online security that people use on a daily basis, and they’re essential to your online existence. The protection passwords offer, however, is only as strong as your password is complex. Password managers allow you to have stronger, more-complex passwords without the hassle of having to remember passwords that seem custom-designed to not be easily remembered. Password managers are not a perfect, but compared to the highly manual and risky alternatives they are the easiest, most effective, solution.