It’s been a while since I talked about passwords, yet almost every day I help a customer with a password related problem.  Passwords are a necessary evil – we can’t live without them, but they’re difficult to manage.  Here are some suggestions and ideas that might make life a little easier.

So why do we need passwords?  Well passwords are a way of proving that you are who you say you are when you visit a website.   You wouldn’t want someone else accessing your online banking now would you?

The first known instance of a computer password was in 1961 at MIT where passwords were used to control access to a time-sharing computer called the “Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS)”

Fast forward to today and passwords are everywhere.   Personally, I must have to enter passwords tens, if not hundreds of times a day!

I found this comment, from cartoonist Randall Munroe, sums up passwords nicely

“Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.”

Keep that in mind when you have to choose your next password.   Make it complex enough that a computer that can try thousands of passwords a second still can’t guess it.

Here’s an example.  Think of a phrase that you can remember.  “I hate computer passwords but can’t live without them!”.   Now take the first letter of each word and put them together “Ihcpbclwt!”.    I’ve also used upper case “I” and the exclamation mark at the end to make it even more secure.

You can check how complex a password is on the following website:

Here it shows me that “Ihcpbclwt!” would take a computer around 97 years to guess, whereas the password “password” would be guessed instantly!

Don’t use common information such as your date of birth – dog’s name, telephone number etc.   Have you seen those Facebook quizzes asking for this kind of information?   They’re usually scams that could use this against you!

You also want to avoid using the same password on multiple sites.   If you use the same password and one of the sites gets hacked, the hackers will then be able to log in as you on all the other sites.   There’s a handy (and quite scary) site that lets you know if any websites you’ve used before have been hacked:

Enter your email address and it’ll warn you if your login details have previously been hacked/stolen.

Now I can’t stress this enough – know what your passwords are.  Don’t randomly assign a password when setting up an account and assume that you’ll never need it again.   I’ve had several cases where customers have lost access to email, social media, even tablets/phones because they don’t know what their passwords are.   If you’re going to write down your password, keep it somewhere safe – and always update it if you have to change the password at some point.

It’s also important to keep your security/recovery information up to date.   For example, companies will often ask for a cell number or a different recovery email address.   This way, if you forget your password, they’ll send you an email or a text message to allow you to change it.

All too often, I have a customer who has forgotten their password and have either changed email address, or cell number and now can’t get back into their account.  Imagine permanently losing access to your email because you’ve forgotten your password and can’t reset it!

There are password management tools such as 1Password, Dashlane and LastPass.   These tools securely and safely store all your passwords for you.   You just have to remember one master password!   Think of it as a secure notepad with all your passwords stored inside.    If you have lots of passwords, take a look at one of these solutions as they make life a lot easier!