Managing your passwords – the vital first step!

No doubt you already have login details for a lot of websites. But do you manage your passwords well? Or are you one of many who uses the same password every time?

Why is this a bad idea? Because the hackers only have to crack one website and then they can impersonate you everywhere. Recently hackers broke into a database linked to Yahoo. They collected and published over 450,000 email addresses and passwords.

Some of these passwords would have been extremely easy to crack anyway. 1673 people chose ‘123456’ as their password; another 1279 picked ‘##########’!

Since your business depends on the systems and services you use, you must have good password management to keep the baddies out. Some very organised people write all their passwords in a little black book. That’s OK, as long as the book is never lost, stolen, or destroyed by fire or flood.

The system I use and recommend is LastPass. I am not the only one who recommends it. PC magazine made it their Editor’s Choice for password management. You can read a full review here. And it’s free! (There is also an inexpensive premium version.)

How does it work? Once you have set it up, LastPass can generate a new strong password for each website you log into. It stores your user name and password and fills them in for you when you next log into the site. The clever part is that it does this without anyone in LastPass being able to read your passwords. They are all encrypted – turned into unreadable codes by your Master Password. You pick your Master Password when you set LastPass up, and it is never sent into the cloud.

So the Master Password is important. Very important. You need to choose yours now.

  • Make it at least ten characters long. Longer passwords are harder to crack.
  • Include one or more uppercase characters, such as M or T.
  • Include one or more numerals.
  • Include one or more special characters, such as # or %.

These precautions help to defeat what is called a dictionary-attack, where the hackers use their computers to test your password with thousands of commonly used words.

Now you have chosen your Master Password, write it down and put it somewhere safe where you can refer to it each time you sit at your computer.

Then write it down again and seal the information away with other important documents. Without the Master Password you will lose access to all your important websites, so trust me and do it.

Now you are ready to download LastPass and set it up. It’s not the easiest thing you’ve ever done, so please be prepared to work patiently through the Getting Started Guide.

It takes a little effort to set up, but will save you lots of time in future and give you peace-of-mind that your systems are protected.

 

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