Thursday, May 5, 2016

How to Store Your Passwords

How do you store your passwords? Let's review three choices to consider as we celebrate World Password Day.
Happy World Password Day! This is a holiday that everyone within the sound of my written voice can celebrate; if you're on a computer, you almost positively have at least one password. Or a hundred of them, and therein lies the problem. How do you store all those passwords? Better yet, how do you remember them? Let's review some of the best ways to store the passwords that you use online.

But first, let's talk a little bit about why there is a World Password Day. Cybercrime is huge in the news these days. Rarely a week goes by that we don't learn of another hack by some group of unknown criminals on the computer records of yet another well-known large company, bank, or perhaps worse, government agency.

It is said that there are two groups of people online, those who've been hacked and those who don't yet know they've been hacked. It's hard to imagine how much personal information, often including account numbers and passwords, is in the hands of criminals who have nothing but bad things in mind. Likely they plan to sell all the compromised information they can get their hands on to the highest bidder with no regard at all to how their illegal deeds might adversely affect the average computer user.

While there's little we as individuals can do to stop this widespread criminal behavior, the best thing we can do to keep our own online information safe is to protect access to it by using good, strong passwords and storing them properly.

Care to guess what the two most-used passwords in the world are? At the top of the list is the numeric sequence 123456 while second is the word "password." If you use either of those on any of your online accounts, I have three words for you: No! No! No! It takes mere seconds to create a strong password, one that even the worst bad guy's password-stealing robot can't easily hack. For some simple tips to follow when creating a password, both do's and don't's, visit the World Password Day website. It's a fun and informative site where you'll probably learn a thing or two.

Once you've created your new long, strong passwords, one for each and every account you use, you'll need to figure out how to safely store them. Here are three choices to consider.

Kaspersky Password Manager is a great way to keep your personal passwords safe!
1. Hire a manager. The easiest way is to store all of your passwords with the help of a password manager such as the highly-recommended Kaspersky Password Manager (available in both a free and a paid version). This program syncs your passwords across devices, which is very handy. It will also help you develop strong passwords that are hard to crack, always a good thing. Learn more then download the free version or buy the paid version (just $14.99, price subject to change) at the link.

2. Write them down. If you're old fashioned, as I tend to be, you might want to keep track of your passwords yourself by writing them down on paper. Or use a simple Rolodex. The one in the picture above is mine. The alphabetical tabs make it easy to file the cards by site name or URL and it doesn't take much room on your desk top. This is a good solution for a home office, but I wouldn't use it in a public work space where anyone who walks by could take a peek or, worse, grab it and take off with it. Also, it isn't easy to pack in my purse when I travel. That's where the next option comes in.

This personal password logbook is a great way to store all the passwords you use online.
3.  Use a password journal. I really like this personal password logbook or journal! It's designed specifically for recording internet addresses and their passwords as well as other useful information about your computer, your software, your ISP, your email addresses, and more. The front label is removable, so the contents are stored discretely. The elastic band helps by keeping the book closed until you want to open it. I really like the cover design, too, which is just one of several available for this line of password journals or logbooks. (You'll see them at the link.) While I keep a short list of passwords with me in my purse, it's barely sufficient and not nearly as efficient as this pretty book which right now costs less than $7 (price subject to change).

A word of caution: House fires happen. I know first hand. So if you depend on a Rolodex, sticky notes, or just a simple notebook for storing passwords, make sure you have a backup somewhere (and not on an external hard drive in your home; they burn, too). The Kaspersky system is probably the best choice for storing passwords or, if you still want to do it yourself, just make sure you've set up a file in the cloud somewhere that you can retrieve from anywhere in case of emergency. The price is very reasonable and very worth it when you consider the time it takes to retrieve and/or change every password you have. Again, I know.

So, how do you store your passwords? Do they need updating? How will you celebrate World Password Day? While it officially falls on the first Thursday of May (May 4, 2017), this information is important every day of the year. I hope you'll use it to keep both your data and your passwords safe!

~ Susan
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9 comments:

  1. Passwords have become a nightmare, haven't they? I use Lastpass to store mine, but it's online so still could be a problem...but at least I only need to go to another device to find them.

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    1. Thanks for another recommendation, Heather. I'm with you on the comment about it being online, therefore creating some risk, but I'm sure the password manager services take the utmost care in keeping our passwords safe. Certainly they're convenient, too.

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  2. This is something we all need to regularly consider and review. It is totally appropriate to have one day a year named for passwords if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder that password preservation is a serious issue. Your recommendations are excellent too Susan. I personally have the password journal but have not given the proper consideration to the possibility of fire even though I do know a lot about what you have gone through.

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    1. Cynthia, I read somewhere a recommendation to take a picture of your password journal pages and store them on the cloud where they're easily retrievable by you, if needed. Sounds like a workable solution since they wouldn't be robot-readable as private information. If you have a safe, secure place to store your photos, you could give it a try!

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  3. Good advice, Susan. I keep a typed alphabetized list of my passwords in my home filing cabinet, but having a copy in the Cloud would be an added protection. I also like the little journal you can carry with you as I've had to bring my whole folder those weeks I've spent at one of my children's homes on visits. My biggest problem is I don't know where to find the CLOUD. LOL. Happy Password Day!

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    1. LOL Good question, Elf! Well, I think I can help with that. If you store photos, music, or other data somewhere online (google docs, Picasa photos, Amazon's music library, that kind of thing) then they're "on the cloud." Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, or offer some better examples, but I think that's the general gist of it. I'm sure traveling with your password folder isn't the most convenient thing to do, plus it's a bit risky. Maybe a Password Journal is a good choice for you. Happy Password Day to you, too!

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  4. Great post, Susan. Passwords are definitely a headache. My son works in the cloud...I wonder how he stores his passwords though he likely does not have as many as we do.

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    1. Thank you, Brenda. Yes, I guess he does work in the cloud! Bet he has a very secure location there even for storing his personal passwords. You'll have to ask him and see what he recommends!

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  5. I do use one of those solutions, but don't like to advertise it. It seems to me the cloud is still part of an internet that can be hacked. I don't trust clouds and I have multiple cloud backups. I also wonder what happens if you forget your LastPass password. I used it once, but didn't like it. It seems there's no easy solution because under the right conditions any of these solutions can be stolen or destroyed. The problem is the human heart -- the kind that likes to do others harm.

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