How to Choose a Password

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The alarming trend of identity theft is a hot topic these days, and it's making the rounds of daytime talk shows, magazine stories, and newspaper features. Rated at the top of consumer fraud complaints in 2001, the old-fashioned version starts with the physical theft of checkbooks, wallets, and credit cards. Not far behind in the ratings is the electronic version of pillaging private accounts and financial records all with the click of a mouse.

You wouldn't think of leaving your keys in an unlocked car or your wallet out in plain view, but choosing an obvious or easy-to-guess password can put you and your privacy at the same risk. Think of your password as the key to your safe deposit box. It is literally the key to everything from bank machines to your personal email. Your password insures your privacy and protection, and if compromised by unauthorized or unscrupulous people, the consequences could be devastating.

The obvious rules are:

  • NEVER TELL ANYONE YOUR PASSWORD, and
  • NEVER WRITE IT DOWN!

But because of the recent increase of automated password-cracking programs, the rules for choosing a password have become much more complicated. Here are some guidelines to follow:

DO CHOOSE

  • Something easy to remember
  • At least six characters, using a mixture of numbers, letters (caps and lower case), and other symbols

DON'T CHOOSE

  • Your name (or the names of your family, friends, pets, famous people, literary characters, etc.) in any form
  • Any word which is found in a dictionary, even if you add numbers or other letters to it
  • Any numbers associated with you: phone, address, birthday, anniversary, license plate, social security, etc. (And no all-number passwords.)

One more easy suggestion: Change your password at regular intervals. (And keep your keys and wallet in a safe place!)